Construction is starting to come together for Cotton & Reed, the D.C. rum distillery opening near Union Market at 1330 5th St. NE.
Jordan Cotton and Reed Walker are setting up their distillery in a 3,300 square foot space, still under construction, with the hopes of opening sometime in June. The project is more than three years in the making for Cotton and Walker, friends who first met when working as NASA contractors.
"It doesn't feel like a job — it feels like fun," Reed said of the project. The pair is going for an "overgrown industrial" vibe for the space, which uses reclaimed wood and materials from such sources as a nearby former Cash & Carry shop and the now-shuttered Buchanan School in D.C., from which they salvaged shelving and desks for future classes.
The front portion of the space will house a bar, including a glass window and bar reaching into the outside (there will be seating for 20 inside and 15 outside, as well as plenty of room for standing). The bar top was designed by a digital artist from the Hirshhorn Museum, and it's going to be etched with scientific plant and animal images from the 16th and 17th century (expect a similar motif for the distillery's rum bottles). Plants will also cascade down the wall of the building.
A glass door will divide the bar area from the production space, which is filled with a 500-gallon hybrid column pot still, other distilling equipment including mashes and a boiler (an $80,000 expenditure, including installation), a shower and storage space. The distillery will be open Wednesdays-Fridays in addition to weekend hours, with tours likely on the weekends.
When it opens, Cotton & Reed will serve both a dry spiced rum (brewed in a method similar to making gin and using 19 different botanicals, including allspice and clove) and a white rum. Eventually, they will venture into other spirits (amaro is a priority). Bartender Lukas Smith, who is wrapping up his time at Jack Rose and Dram & Grain to move over to Cotton & Reed, will be in charge of the cocktail menu. Expect a rotating group of seven draft cocktails and one mocktail served in the bar area, as well as rum flights. "It's a good way to showcase rum, since young rum is largely used best as a cocktail ingredient," said Walker.