Ironclad Distillery, The Taste of Place
Bourbon from the state’s newest distillery has a saltybite that’s distinctly Tidewater.
Ironclad Distillery is housed in a century-old dry goods warehouse along the James River in downtown Newport News. Brackish air seeps into the barrel room, infusing the bourbon with flavor.
“You can definitely identify the James River in there,” Kara King says.
Owned and operated by the King family, Ironclad released its first batch of bourbon to ABC stores across Virginia in October. The Kings are already aging more small-batch bourbon and plan to open a tasting room at their distillery in early 2017.
Founder Stephen King bought the building on 23rd Street years ago for his home restoration franchise. Part of the place sat unused until the family decided what to do with the extra space.
“Believe it or not,” he says, “the common interest was bourbon.”
Each member of the King family has a role in the business. Stephen’s wife, Carol, is the historical director. Kara, the daughter, handles marketing. Son Ben, who lives in New York, does the branding. And the Kings’ other son, Owen, is the distiller. The Kings named their six stills after grandparents and spouses.
Ironclad bourbon is made with grains from Renwood Farms in Charles City County. The bourbon is aged in oak barrels for 14 to 16 months.
The distillery’s location inspired its name, which pays tribute to the Battle of the Ironclads, fought nearby in 1862. Peel back the label on a bottle to reveal blueprints of the USS Monitor. You’ll also find old newspaper headlines from the Civil War battle under the bottle’s neck.
Each bottle includes a “barrel tag” indicating which oak barrel the bourbon came from. Barrels can be used to age bourbon only once, so register the number on Ironclad’s website to find out where your barrel is now – whether it’s being used as a piece of furniture or it’s aging porter in a brewery.