Great Jones Distilling Co. is Manhattan’s first and only legally operating whiskey distillery since prohibition times. The distillery complex was founded by Proximo Spirits, under the guidance of its owner and 11th generation spirits maker Juan Domingo Beckmann, who proclaims, “We are proud to introduce a bourbon that truly embodies the best of New York State ingredients and the ‘lightning in a bottle’ energy of Manhattan.”
Located right on Broadway in NoHo, North of Houston Street, the spacious 28,000 square feet space has a working distillery, tour and tasting bar, restaurant, speakeasy, and event space.
The name pays homage to both Great Jones Alley and adjacent Great Jones Street, which were named for Samuel Jones in the late 1700s, and was an area known for its Prohibition-era activity.
The idea was born from the belief that the best spirits should be the embodiment of their origins, threading the history of bourbon in New York to the present day. The whiskies are made exclusively at their sister distillery located in the Black Dirt region, less than two hours north of Manhattan in Upstate New York. The grains are grown in the rich ebony soil and have been aged in new charred American Oak barrels, resulting in a smooth, balanced, and complex taste with a distinctive spiciness.
We ask Celina Perez, head distiller for Great Jones Distillery about making whiskey in NYC.
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about how became a distiller. What inspired your career?
I’m Celina Perez. I have been the Head Distiller at the Great Jones Distillery Co. since June 2019.
Working in distilleries was a natural progression of having worked in the food and service industry in NYC. I started my career behind the bar and at the same time, I was a cheesemonger, dabbled in bread, then beer, and finally, whiskey.
I have had the unique opportunity to grow my passion for spirits by working to make rum, liqueurs, and whiskey over the past 11 years. I have always loved whiskey – and truly, the rest is history.
Talk to us about Great Jones Bourbon. Packaging/location/history/name.
We are located at 686 Broadway in the NoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. Great Jones is inspired by and a microcosm of, the City. There’s a profound juxtaposition between the energy of NYC – the hustle and bustle right outside our doors – and the romantic notion of whiskey-making happening inside. We’re very proud to be the first whiskey distillery in Manhattan since Prohibition and pay homage to the rich culture of Prohibition-era New York and a celebration of whiskey — past and present.
What would you like bartenders to know about your Bourbon?
Keep it simple, use high quality ingredients, and celebrate the integrity of the whiskey. I love to enjoy Great Jones Bourbon in a classic Sazerac or Manhattan – our whiskey pairs nicely with other thoughtfully-produced, New York-made products.
What are the foundational and cultural principles that drive/define your brand?
Great Jones Bourbon is inspired by New York City, its spirit of innovation, energy, and hustle.
Great Jones Straight Bourbon is crafted from ingredients grown in the legendary Black Dirt region of Warwick Valley, NY. Once the site of a prehistoric lake, the soil here is renowned for its nutrient-rich content which imbues a distinctive spice in our whiskeys. Our 100% corn, barley, and rye are mashed and cut with Catskill Mountain water to create a uniquely New York spirit.
With everything we distill and produce, we are proud to push the boundaries of great whiskey making. New York City is always changing and evolving, and we are so lucky to be able to develop new and exciting whiskey releases in the center of the greatest city in the world. I’m currently working on some exciting New York Malts, a cherry-smoked Rye, a coffee malt Bourbon, and unique barrel finishes.
Why does diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) matter to today’s consumers—influencing which brands they value and support?
Today’s consumers are looking to learn about and be inspired by brands that reflect their values – and that very much matches my ethos. We all know that the world of spirits and distilling can be very one sided, so I have built my team to reflect the diversity of New York City.
How does seeing women in leadership positions such as your own impact the industry?
When I first started in the industry, women in distilling were very rare. Today, many of my friends are female distillers and pillars of the industry, especially in NY. It is really inspiring to see that 10 years later, some of the most important and respected leaders in the spirits industry are women, and it’s a true testament to our hard work and expertise. Moving forward, we need to continue to drive awareness of women in distilling and focus on internal education.
What advice do you have for women entering or already in the wine, beer and spirits industry?
Follow your passion. Don’t be intimidated by the labor-intensive requirements of distilling. You can learn to lift a 50lb bag of corn, but no one can ever teach you to really love whiskey.
If you love the spirits industry and have a passion for making whiskey – go for it – you really can learn the rest.