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An Honest Bootlegger (PHOTOS)

After the initial euphoria of discovering sipping booze, you arrive at a curious state of self-conscious confusion.
09/19/2014 04:38pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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Colin Spoelman, owner, master distiller Kings County Distillery

It happened on a job six years ago at the Cuervo Distillery in Tequila Mexico when someone handed me a glass of their "La Familia". Whoa man. That evening, a whole new world of liquid happiness was introduced to me.

After the initial euphoria of discovering sipping booze, you arrive at a curious state of self-conscious confusion, mainly induced by expert opinions (aka, arrogant friends) and marketing bullshit...am I drinking the really good stuff ?

Fortunately, the only way through this crisis of libation is to drink, as often (and sometimes as much) as you can. After that, it's all about being honest with yourself, which, as it turns out, isn't so easy.

Honesty has become a loadstar in my life. Honesty celebrates the effort toward truth. Truth is basically a mental construct; honesty on the other hand is both a mental and emotional process that guides you beyond "right" and "wrong", "good" and "bad". With honesty, it is about having actual experience and the only opinion that matters in the end is yours. And this is hard stuff. You have to earn it. But the reward for this effort is your own authenticity. And as far as booze goes, the reward is your own personal taste!

My personal taste has meandered from tequila, to scotch and has now settled (very happily) on bourbon. My earnest and dedicated studies in bourbon led me to a refreshingly honest book: The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining by Colin Spoelman & David Haskell.

As the book describes, Colin started making moonshine for himself and some friends in his Brooklyn apartment. It was through experimentation and so-called failure, that he was able to build his palette, and earn his own sense of taste. He developed the skill so well, he scared himself legit. Colin is now the master distiller of the oldest distillery in NYC. (Founded in 2010. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.)

After reading the book I decided to visit Colin and indulge in my two greatest passions, photography and bourbon. What I appreciate most about Colin, his book, his distillery and his bourbon is how consistently honest and authentic they all are. People who create and actually make things are the most honest among us.

The whole experience made me feel like I had permission to like what I want to like.

So, is Kings County Bourbon the good stuff? All I can say to that is I am now a customer. But who cares what I think? Go order a bottle...even better, go out to the Brooklyn Navy yards and get a tour from Colin himself. Take a sip (or swig) and treat yourself to your own sense of taste. And tell Colin I said hey.

I hope you enjoy the photo essay below. Cheers.

(Shameless plug for NYC photoblog: ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE Instagram, Facebook).

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Pay Master Building, Brooklyn Navy Yards. Home of Kings County Distillery.

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Corn. The ingredients for Bourbon are pretty simple: corn, barley, water and yeast.

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Barley.

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Filtered water.

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The corn, barley and water are mixed to make a mash.

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The mash is hosed into 500 gallon oak fermenters.

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Yeast is added and it feasts off the mash for 3 days.

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The fermented mash enters the copper still where the alcohol is boiled off and condensed into whiskey.

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Out comes white whiskey.

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The first legal bottle of moonshine distilled in NYC since prohibition here at Kings County Distillery.

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The grain alcohol is then put into charred white oak barrels.

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It is aged for a little under two years or more.

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Look at all that liquid happiness cooking.

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Bottled and ready to enjoy.