Two Pittsburgh Distilleries Are Big Award Winners

The awards are evidence that two of the best distilleries in the country are close to home.


WIGLE WHISKEY PHOTOS BY LAURA PETRILLA
 

It was a banner week for Maggie’s Farm Rum and Wigle Whiskey. Both Strip District distilleries took home a fistful of awards from the second American Craft Spirits Association conference in Austin.
 
Maggie’s Farm won Best in Class Rum — plus a gold medal — for its Double-Barrel rum. The distillery also took home silver medals for both bourbon-barrel aged and unaged Queen’s Share rum and a bronze medal for its white rum.
 
Wigle won six awards: gold medals for its organic rye and malted rye and bronze medals for Landlocked oaked, Landlocked spiced, Ginever and wheat whiskey with sassafras.
 

The Wigle crew saw the awards as a validation of their methodology.

“One of the things we learned talking to other distillers is how quirky our distillation process is. We’ve worked to create our own method that we really believe in. That’s paying off,” says Grelli.
 


MAGGIE'S FARM RUM PHOTOS BY MARK SIMPSON

Two days after the awards, Tim Russell of Maggie’s Farm still was processing what the honors mean to him.

“I have lot of different feelings. Happy. And scared, honestly. I’m not sure what’s going to come out of this,” he says.
 
Russell’s micro-distillery quickly is earning a reputation for excellence that reaches significantly beyond the Strip: Maggie’s Farm Double-Barrel rum also won the highest marks for its category in the New York International Spirits competition late last year.
 

“I’m not sure where that’s going to go yet, since we’re still so small in production,” Russell says.
 
Expect production to increase late this spring, when a new, larger still arrives from Spain. Maggie’s Farm currently has a capacity of 1,000 9-liter cases per year; the new still will will be able to produce triple the volume.
 
These awards also can serve as something deeper than a (well-deserved) round of applause for Maggie’s Farm and Wigle. They can help to expand the business of small-batch spirits beyond cocktail aficionados and bartenders.
 
“We’re a control state, so people in Pa. often aren’t even aware of the craft spirits produced here. A lot of people outside of Pa. don’t think about the state because they can’t get our products in here,” says Russell. “Hopefully, now that we’ve shown that two of the best distilleries in the country are in this state, that will raise some attention.”


 

In other booze news, three new taprooms have opened in the last few weeks:
 


FULL PINT PHOTO BY JOHN ALTDORFER
 

 

  • The first three weeks at the much-anticipated Homestead outlet of Meadville’s Voodoo Brewery were such a hit with beer lovers that owners already have decided to expand opening hours to seven days per week. I’m a big fan of Voodoo and quite happy they’ve opened up an in-town location — as much as I enjoy a day trip to the brewpub in Meadville, Homestead is a much shorter drive.
     
  • Meanwhile, Spoonwood Brewing Co. is open in Bethel Park. I first tried their beer at the Beers of the ’Burgh festival last spring, and I rather enjoyed what they had to offer. I’m looking forward to visiting the brewery — and sampling some of the food from the wood-fired oven — in the next few weeks.
     
  • Finally, the Full Pint Brewing/Wild Purveyors mash-up called the Wild Side Pub is open in Upper Lawrenceville. The collaboration between one of the region’s most-innovative breweries and the specialty grocery should make this a go-to destination. Plus, the opening adds another layer of excellence to 5300 block of Butler Street, already home to Cure, The Allegheny Wine Mixer and Pusadee’s Garden.
     
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