Although it has occupied its former foundry space deep in the heart of Southie since 2011, it’s easy to miss the understated exterior of GrandTen Distillery. But upon walking in, it’s clear that there’s something very special about the historic space and the operation within.
Beyond the distilling magic that takes place within the warehouse walls, GrandTen offers Boston’s best kept secret—Friday Night Flights, where spirit enthusiasts gather for a pre-dinner tour and tasting, limited to 20 people. Having been to Friday Night Flights last year, I thought I was quite familiar with the distillery layout, but upon walking in earlier this month, I felt disoriented by the space that’s been flipped on its head amidst a renovation. We’re greeted by the very friendly Ivy, the distillery dog who belongs to Matt Nuernberger, co owner of GrandTen.
Beneath the shambles of construction, the work continues and the spirits are progressing, yet there is a relaxed, laid back essence in the air.
Matt provides a quick tour of the distilling space, where we see Adrian, the copper still (yes, they named it). The smells are overwhelming as the team works on the Angelica Liqueur, part of GrandTen’s small batch of naturally flavored cordials. The intoxicating smell of herbaceous clove, cinnamon and juniper fill the air. Good thing Matt is quick to offer us a cocktail.
As Matt effortlessly mixes up a delicious Bees Knees of honey simple syrup, lemon juice, and GTD’s Wire Works American Gin, we chat about the road to renovation, which according to Matt has been a “long time coming” and is the natural next step for the company, which launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funding last spring. After raising some money and getting the permits that will allow the renovations and the ability to open a bar that sells GTD cocktails to the public, the journey began.
As a Mechanical Engineer working in the software world, Matt decided he was ready to dive back into entrepreneurship in 2008 and applied to Babson’s MBA program, “in the summer of 2009, things were poor and internships were not plentiful,” recalls Matt. So, he spent the summer researching different opportunities.
“I asked myself, ‘if I could do anything, what would it be?’ and craft distilling was pretty appealing. There weren’t any craft distilleries in Boston at the time.”
Matt turned to his cousin, Spencer, who had just wrapped up his PHD in chemistry. That following summer, Spencer moved to Boston and “the rest is history.”
The two moved into the South Boston location and in April of 2012, started selling their first product: the signature Wire Works Gin, named for the wire the foundry space once produced.
When I last visited GTD, I couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle of the Fire Puncher vodka, falling addicted to the chipotle smokiness that was unlike any other spirit I’d tasted. As with many of GTD’s products, there’s an interesting anecdote behind the name…
Matt excitedly tells the story of Tommy Maguire, who was the first to respond to a fire at the iron foundry in 1887. Before the South Boston Fire Department arrived, Maguire raised a ladder on his own, climbed the roof, and began punching the fire out with his bare fists. “The fire department arrived and dragged him off the roof where according to the Globe, he fought with the fierceness of a tiger,” says Matt.
“We thought anyone who was willing to fight fire with their fists deserves a spicy vodka named after him.”
Having had this delicious spicy vodka in my freezer for quite some time, I was anxious to get Matt’s take on how to best drink a chipotle pepper infused vodka. Luckily he was filled with ideas, recommending to substitute it anywhere you’d use tequila, like a margarita, or what Matt calls a “Southie Mule,” mixing it with ginger beer and simple syrup. ““Fruit and Fire Puncher goes together really well, so don’t be afraid to experiment…and I think it’s time you finished that bottle.”
Duly noted. And I’m getting close on the latter. But my favorite suggestion? A spicy White Russian.
An anticipated opening for the new bar is right around the corner, aiming for the end of October. Friday Night Flights is still ongoing during construction, but Matt warns that he is uncertain of the future of the Friday event once the bar is open to the public. So the biggest piece of advice I can give is to get over there quickly for this great tasting event, and then keep an eye out for the bar’s opening. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.