Distillery Watch

Oola Distillery’s Tasting Room Opens October 6

The long-awaited Capitol Hill spirits factory is all set to serve up samples of its vodka and gin.

By Jessica Voelker September 29, 2011

Managing director Brandon Gillespie mans the bar at Oola’s tasting room.

Last Friday was a good day. After tasting the Sun Liquor gin, I stopped in for a quick kimchi fried-rice fix at Marination Station, then hightailed it to Oola Distillery on East Union where I was to interview owner Kirby Kallas-Lewis.

Designed by neighborhood architects Graham Baba, Oola has has lovely details—with lots of wood to keep things warm—but also manages to feel industrial and work-a-day, as a busy distillery should. And wow, does it smell like booze.

Brandon Gillepsie (formerly of Mighty-O Donuts) is managing director at Oola, and will run the tasting room. It will be open from 2 to 8pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and Friday and Saturday from 2 to 10pm. Down the road, Kallas-Lewis would like to convert the two-level tasting room into a bar that celebrates craft imbibables of all kinds. With that in mind, the architects designed the space to enable the conversion. The stairwell leading up to the second level is wide enough to enable servers to bring up trays of drinks, for instance.

But when it opens, this spot will be dedicated to serving up samples of Oola’s vodka and gin, already in the bottle. The gin ($32.95) is juniper-forward and pretty hot at 47 percent alcohol; the vodka ($29.95) has a distinct wheaty quality that makes it readily distinguishable from its cohorts. Oola is also making flavored vodkas, including one with hot peppers sourced by Howard Lev of Mama Lil’s Peppers. Kallas-Lewis is using accelerated aging techniques for the “Waitsburg Whiskey,” so it should be available by springtime.

Oh! And this is very cool too: Mike Easton of Il Corvo is bottling his distinct amaro Amaro Vittoria at Oola. That will be ready in time for Christmas.

Attached to the distillery is a studio out of which Kallas-Lewis’s wife runs her dance company. A kitchen hides behind a sliding door in the studio, so that the space can double as an events venue where Kallas-Lewis hopes to host cocktail pairing dinners and release parties. Check the distillery’s Facebook page for updates and announcements.

Stop by Oola between 5 to 8pm on October 6 to get a first look.

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