Distillery Profile – All Points West

All Points West Distillery Building

Cultures Collide at All Points West

Within a nondescript building in a Portuguese neighborhood, under the shadow of the Northeast Corridor rail viaduct in Newark, New Jersey, sits All Points West Distillery. Why so specific about the placement of the distillery? Because everything at APW is focused on ‘place’.

Head distiller Gil Spaier came to whiskey earlier than most and, unlike many of us, didn’t start on the bottom shelf. “I went to collect in New Orleans, where the drinking age was 18, so my first drinks were traditional Sazeracs at the Napoleon House”. Finding a love of cocktails and spirits at a young age cause him to aim high with his own creations, and that’s reflected in his process. This process has a distinct focus on each of three main factors in distilling whiskey: the water, the mash, and the still itself.

Map of Newark Watershed on bottle

The Water

As all good whiskies do, Gil starts with the water. The water in Newark is particularly special for a good reason; Newark has 35,000 acres of protected watershed located in the Appalachian Highlands of Northern New Jersey. Gil is particularly proud of the water in Newark, so much that he includes a map of the watershed and route to Newark on each bottle. This mountain-fresh water made Newark a brewing Mecca before Prohibition and APW looks to continue that tradition today with its distilling. Ultimately the water is what drew him to put down roots for APW in Newark.

The Grains

Second, the grains. Gil’s love affair with grains came from the joy he found when baking bread. Different mixtures of grains within bread, even in tiny amounts, can have a massive impact on the flavor of the final product. APW’s flagship whiskies are named, importantly albeit slightly confusingly, “Malt and Grain” and “Grain and Malt”. Each of these styles uses a simple combination of corn and malt as the primary ingredients, but playing around with the proportions gives two radically different flavor profiles in these two whiskies. The idea of combining corn and malt in whiskey isn’t new, but it is very American. As immigrants from the British Isles came to the New York metro area in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought their whiskey-making traditions with them; but they couldn’t bring the ingredients. The result was British-style whiskies (Scotch and Irish) with American ingredients (Corn and Rye). Even the name, All Points West, pays homage to the idea of immigrants arriving in Jersey City, hopping on a train, and heading to “all points west”.

All Points West's Pot Stills

The Stills

And lastly, the stills. All Points West looks to revive the ‘cultural collision’ of American grains and Irish Whiskey style using his two pot stills. Gil chose the pot stills from a love of Springbank 12 which he admits, “might still be my favorite whiskey”. His distillation process shoots for something similar to the “2.5x distilled” that Springbank is famous for. The combination of Irish-style pot still distillation and American corn mash is something unique. The result is a whiskey style that was deemed “too American” for the British and outlawed in 1909, and which Gil is fabulously proud of. “If you like Irish whiskey and you like bourbon, you’ll probably like our whiskies”.

The Whiskies

Malt and Grain Whiskey - Image courtesy All Points West

Malt and Grain Pot Still Whiskey

One of the two flagship whiskies at APW, the Malt and Grain does not disappoint. Sweet aromas from the malt combined with dark fruits. It has an unctuous and luxurious texture, resulting from the distillation process allowing some residual oils to remain. Though not quite sweet enough to make our top 10 list of sweet whiskies, the finish was long, velvety, and delicious.

Grain and Malt Whiskey - Image courtesy All Points West

Grain and Malt Pot Still Whiskey

The other flagship whiskey at APW, despite the similarity in the name, was a very different experience. This one was lighter in color and had a more herbaceous, grassy aroma. It was substantially lighter on the palate with a shorter, albeit harsher, finish. Overall the Grain and Malt left a bit to be desired, and Gil himself hopes that a bit more time maturing will help the whiskey. Most remarkable about it was the ocean of difference in aroma, flavor, and finish from its sister whiskey.
Mid-Atlantic Pot Still Rye Whiskey - Image courtesy All Points West

Mid-Atlantic Pot Still Rye

Harkening back to a bygone era, but not quite as far back as the corn mash pot still whiskies, comes APW’s Mid-Atlantic Pot Still Rye. Gil styled this rye after the post-prohibition ryes that were made from about 1930-1980, which is in contrast to many other east-coast rye whiskies which aim for a pre-prohibition style. This rye strips out all corn and uses rye, barley, and malt to give a sweet-yet-firey mix that is uniquely delicious from other top rye whiskies. My immediate reaction to this dram was, “I’ll need a bottle of that on my way out”.

APW has also cooked up a limited selection of cask-finished whiskies: a stout-finished version of the Grain and Malt whiskey and an in-house produced rum-finished version of their Malt and Grain. If you get a chance to get your hands on these bottlings, they’re worth a try as each finish adds a unique element to the whiskey.  Speaking of rum, and yes I know this is a whiskey site, APW has worked to create a traditional molasses rum that has an elegant sweetness rather than the abrasive faux-sweetness that many other rums carry. Certainly worth a look if you dabble in tipples other than whiskey!

If you’re a fan of unique whiskies, you’ll want to try All Points West’s offerings as the fusion of Irish style and American grains has created something unique. This ‘cultural collision’ is what makes the placement of All Points West so critically important. So if you’re in the New York metro on a weekend, it’d be worth a short trip out to visit Gil in nearby Newark as they do tastings and tours each Saturday. Already been there? Leave a comment below to let us know what you thought of it!

Aging barrels in All Points West Distillery
Stout Finished Grain and Malt Whiskey bottles

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