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MISCellaneous Distillery
by
Terry and Kathy Sullivan

Miscellaneous DistillerySummary: In the vibrant downtown of historic Mt. Airy, Maryland, MISCellaneous Distillery is a new business that has a strong community relationship. Opening in December 2016, the current spirits production is rum; whisky production begins in 2017.

Miscellaneous DistilleryDan McNeill and Meg MacWhirter are the founders and driving force behind MISCellaneous Distillery. Dan had a career in the political arena, but desired to make a product. He explained that he had an epiphany at the bottom of a glass of whisky. He thought he could make spirits. He always enjoyed whisky and knew its aromas and flavors. He caught the distilled spirits bug and absorbed much learning from books, course work and industry personnel. While in the Caribbean, Meg worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mount Airy, Grenada where she learned about the small batch distilling of rum. From Mount Airy, Grenada to Mt. Airy, Maryland, Meg is at home at MISCellaneous Distillery. Both Dan and Meg are inspired by the long tradition of rum and rye whisky making in Maryland since the 1600s.

MISCellaneous was chosen for the distillery name. The MISC is an abbreviation for McNeill Independent Spirits Creators. The logo is MISC Distillery.

Our weekend visit to Mt Airy was very pleasant. We parked in a lot behind Main Street, and walked down the stairways to Main Street. MISCellaneous Distillery was across the street in a building shared by other businesses. If you enter from Main Street and take the elevator to the distillery floor. A sign on the door reads MISC Distillery. If the door is locked, there is a doorbell next to it with a sign “Ring for Booze.” You can also enter the distillery from behind the building off of Hotel Street. There is some parking on this street and the distillery door is just a few steps from the parking area.

Miscellaneous DistilleryWe met Meg as we entered the sizable tasting room. Immediately we learned that the distillery had a strong tie to the business community in downtown Mt. Airy. The weekend was the week before Easter, and many of the businesses had a golden egg hidden. People would enter the business to find the egg. At MISCellaneous Distillery, the egg was hidden in the tasting room, although Meg frequently would change its location. While talking about the distillery, the Easter Bunny paid a visit. Ashley Collier the Main Street Manager visited in a bunny custom for a photo opportunity. A moment later other spirits enthusiasts visited and Meg took us on a tour of the production facility.

Miscellaneous DistilleryThe production area is a large L-shaped room. Overhead signs differentiate the steps of the production such as Mashing, Fermenting, Distilling, Aging and Bottling. Meg explained each step along the way. Dan soon joined us at the still and explained the distilling process. The distillery opened in December 2016 and the first product was a clear rum. Sugar and molasses are sourced from Domino’s in Baltimore. Rye for whisky production is sourced from Gravel Springs Farms in Union Bridge close to Westminster, Maryland. Dan mills the grain at The Union Mills Homestead in Westminster.

While speaking about the distilling process, one of the members on the tour commented that at the mash stage, you have beer. Dan noted the similarieties. Terry asked Dan how he determines the foreshots and heads, a part of the distilling process that is discarded. Dan learned to judge the foreshots, heads, hearts and tails by odor and taste. “There are distinct aromas for each phase.” Dan does not redistill the tails. Dan is also interested in Maryland’s history of distilling and making rye whisky.

Miscellaneous DistilleryWe returned to the tasting room for a tasting of the MISC spirits. The tasting room is bright with light pouring in from the large plate windows. Small displays of merchandise are nearby. The tasting counter is unique. Dan and Meg commented that they purchased it from a Baltimore business called Second Chance. The tasting counter with a black quilted side was topped with tile reminiscent of the 1950s or 60s. Rather than a brand new tasting counter, the MISC Distillery tasting counter reminds one of the elegance of the past.

Spirits

Miscellaneous DistilleryRisky Rum was crafted from blackstrap molasses and brown sugar. The clear colored spirit was sweet, smooth and had a long butterscotch aftertaste. We also tasted a sample of the Risky Rum that had an oak spiral added. The color was a light yellow with a gold hue. This too was sweet and smooth. It also had some noticeable oak influence on the aroma and taste. Above the tasting counter are the words, “Live and Drink by your own rules.” This statement sums up Dan’s and Meg’s philosophy. They acknowledge that some people will like their crafted spirits. For those who do not like their products, Dan and Meg are happy to point them to other Maryland distilleries that are growing at a rapid pace.

Meg also likes working on the social impact of having a distillery on Main Street. She enjoys working with community partners and organizations that help people. While there is no charge for tastings, a small donation jar is available, with the donated money going to a local charity.

MISCellaneous Distillery is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Distillery tourists will want to visit this craft Maryland distillery and try their products and catch Dan’s and Meg’s passion for what they create.

Note: Beginning in July 2017, visitors to MISC Distillery will be able to enjoy mixed cocktails.

MISCellaneous Distillery
114 S Main St b103,
Mt Airy, Maryland 21771

GPS: N39º 22.5377’ W77º 09.2734’

 

 

Article written April 2017


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Copyright: Terry and Kathy Sullivan 2016