Whiskey Flows in the Ironbound

Originally appeared in Newance Magazine.

“There is no New York or New Jersey style whiskey,” said Gil Spaier. It was this notion and a deep historical knowledge that lead Spaier, 45, to found All Points West Distillery with one mission: reviving a classic method to create spirits unlike anything anyone had ever tasted. Two years on, he’s doing just that.

All Points West Distillery, founded two years ago in the Ironbound district of Newark, is very much an anachronism in the spirit industry. Spaier employs an older method of distilling – the pot still – that hasn’t quite fallen out of favor, but became less popular over time as new methods came into prominence. All Points West now proudly sells and distributes several varieties of whiskey, vodka, and gin.

Spaier has an encyclopedic historical knowledge of spirits, an interest that he cultivated in an unconventional way. Originally from Long Island, he went to college in New Orleans for architecture. New Orleans has a rich cocktail culture from which its academic culture isn’t mutually exclusive. When classes would end, students and professors alike would continue discussion in bars over cocktails. This struck Spaier, and he developed a love for cocktail culture. 

In 2006, Spaier was enthralled by the “No-knead bread” recipe written by Mark Bittman for the New York Times. After reading, Spaier began to make bread – a lot of it. As his interest grew, his wife purchased him a grain mill and soon he switched from bread to beer. At first, Spaier conducted workshops and made his own infusions at home, then the law changed.

“The United States is a nation of 50 different countries,” said Spaier. The liquor laws across the United States vary greatly from state to state. Jon Offredo with the Times of Trenton reported that although prohibition was repealed in 1933, New Jersey law didn’t allow for craft distilleries until 2013 when Governor Chris Christie passed a bill into law. Following the bill’s passing, Spaier jumped headfirst into his passion. 

Inspired by mention of historic Newark Distilleries in Philip Roth’s 1997 book, “American Pastoral,” Spaier set up shop in the Ironbound to make his own mark on the budding craft distillery scene in New Jersey. Not wanting to make just another ordinary spirit, Spaier revived an old distillation method and whiskey style once deemed “too American” by Europeans in the early 1900’s.

His methods have proven to be worthwhile. The “All Points West Malt and Grain Pot Still Whiskey” won “2019 Whiskey of the Year” and the distillery itself received a gold rating from USA Spirits Ratings. Additionally, a blind taste test conducted by the Manchester England Whiskey Club voted All Points West number one.

Apart from its award-winning whiskey, All Points West also produces “Bone Black Vodka,” a vodka filtered through char from burnt cattle bones, “Bone Black Black Pepper Vodka,” “Cathouse Gin,” and “Cathouse Pink Pepper Gin.”

All Points West opens for tours and tastings on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

All Points West opens for tours and tastings on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Visit online at: www.allpointswestdistillery.com

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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