Whiskey lovers rejoice!
Recently #SpottedinJewishDC is one of the finest whiskey, vodka, and gin distilleries around – One Eight Distilling. Pour yourself a tall gin and tonic (or favorite drink of your choosing) and enjoy this 1:1 interview with One Eight’s co-founder, Alex Laufer, who left a thriving career in biotechnology to open the distillery.
Allie: When you were growing up, what did you dream you’d do as an adult?
Alex: From an early age I loved exploring nature (mucking about a salt marsh, checking out the creepy crawlies under a log in the forest, collecting shells), and dreamed I’d be a biologist when I grew up.
Allie: What is your favorite drink? Do you get to be a “taste-tester” for One Eight?
Alex: Very hard to pick one favorite drink. I enjoy many spirits, cocktails, beers, wines, ciders, etc. For cocktails, I tend to enjoy those that are balanced, yet are boozy, and often have bitter elements; such as a Negroni, Old-Fashioned, or Martini. All of the core staff members at One Eight are taste-testers. Whether we are making the “cuts” on the still run itself, tasting barrel pulls for blends and finishes, proof samples, or creative cocktails, the diversity of pallets and opinions leads to a better final product.
Allie: How did you come up with the idea to open One Eight Distilling? And also, where does the name come from?
Alex: One Eight’s co-founder, Sandy Wood, had the inspiration to open the distillery. It had come from discussions with another friend, a nagging desire to create a business, and early visits to other distilleries in the region. Sandy wrote a lengthy proposal email to me, asking me to partner with him and come on board as Head Distiller. After discussions with my family I agreed, and we dove in!
The name was also Sandy’s inspiration; as an attorney by training, he is familiar with our Constitution. One Eight refers to Article One, Section 8, which- amongst several provisions-calls for the formation of the Nation’s capital. For us, One Eight demonstrates our pride to be crafting spirits here in Washington DC. I also love that One Eight could read as 18 or Chai (life in Hebrew).
Allie: Tell us the best – and most challenging – part of running your own distillery?
Alex: Crafting our spirits is my favorite part of the business. Many aspects of this part of the job are physically demanding and can become routine, but it is extremely satisfying when we have bottled 300 cases or filled 10 new barrels with whiskey for the future.
I also enjoy sharing our work with others, from giving a tasting at a local liquor store, or making cocktails with our spirits for friends and family at home.
Allie: Any new products coming out this year that you’re particularly excited about?
Alex: We released our Rock Creek Bourbon in September, and have been floored by the amazing reception it has been receiving. Our next release will be a collection of four beer-projects we have been working on for some time. For three of the spirits, we collaborated with local breweries, DC Brau and Hellbender. Stay tuned for a release next month!
Allie: Sounds like you’re pretty busy running a distillery, launching new products, and being a DC whiskey connoisseur…what do you like to do for fun outside of work?
Alex: First and foremost, outside of work, I love to spend time with my family; my wife, Jen and sons Jonas (12) and Abe (10). I enjoy cooking for them at home, taking time for hikes, bike rides, camping, or the beach and attending the boys’ various baseball games, swim meets and concerts.
Allie: How do you connect to Jewish life in DC?
Alex: My family and I are members at Tifereth Israel on 16th St. It is a lovely, diverse congregation with great local history (last year marked TI’s centennial), and an amazing leader in Rabbi Siedel. The congregation is very active, and has provided us with meaningful opportunities to cook and serve food at local shelters.
Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?
Alex: Tough to pick just one, as TI can really party for Purim and Simchat Torah! But, honestly, I love the Passover seder the most. We combine elements from seders Jen and I attended growing up and are making our own tradition. We often host family and friends, so I can cook several of the traditional dishes (except Jen makes the best matzah ball soup!).