I’ve been living in Brooklyn for over two years now, and I have yet to make it down to Red Hook. Of course not having a train stop that runs though the neighborhood so you have to walk everywhere is usually a big reason why most don’t either. Shitty transit aside, myself, a few of my Pancakes & Whiskey comrades, and Kiyoshi from local rock band Rocket & the Ghost made the pilgrimage down to Red Hook to take a tour around Van Brunt Stillhouse to see firsthand how they make their different liquors and of course sample some of the goods.
After being shown around their factory, learning how the wheat, corn, and all the other good stuff that makes us happy is turned into an alcoholic state via the machinery, our tour guide Deric began the tasting process. While all of us mixed and matched to try different samplings of rum, moonshine, American whiskey, bourbon, rye, and malt whiskey. I, of course had my favorites. The rum, which very deliciously and uncharacteristically tasted much more like whiskey than rum has a great bite to it. The malt whiskey was tasty as well with subtle caramel tastes and made from raw materials, aged in new oak. Of course the third that I tasted was the moonshine- always a great decision. For having such a high alcohol content the moonshine still had tasteful characteristics to it.
The entire trip to the distillery was a great time, and you too, can take private tours of the magical place on the weekends. Red Hook has a handful of beer and liquor distilleries but Van Brunt has a really good thing going for them in their diversity of different whiskeys, rum, and moonshine. For me though it’s all about company and having a guy like Kiyoshi in the group always makes for great company and a great time. When we weren’t slinging back whiskey and having our own Sunday-Funday (after attending morning mass of course) and talking music in New York, whiskey, and trying to find that perfect sound that Rocket & the Ghost is REALLY close to getting to.
“I parted from The London Souls because I really wanted to expand my palette of songwriting, trying out new styles and different songs. Right now with Rocket we’re REALLY close to getting to songs with a sound that truly defines who we are, and it’s a pretty good place at the moment.”
Trying new styles and experimenting with new and different music is something Kiyoshi understands really well. You could call Rocket & the Ghost’s sound something like millennial rock/pop music. Whatever the label, it’s a sound that the band has mastered really well. Of course I’m not the only one who thinks that. The band will be playing at Lincoln Center in the David Rubenstein Atrium on Thursday as part of the Independent Music Awards. They’re of course winners of an Independent Music Award for their single ‘Gold’, off their self-titled debut EP.
While we’re waiting for the subway to come on our way back into the city, Kiyoshi pulls out the guitar he’ll be playing later in the evening.
“It’s really light, thank God. It’s mostly plexiglass. They take out all the wood and extra weight that give a guitar that resonation and acoustic sound, which is awesome because there’s no excess noise to this. I’ve never had a guitar that reacts to well with pedals, it’s so pickup-heavy.”
I didn’t recognize the brand that made it but any guitar that can be stripped away from all the excess crap to make it sing and mesh well with the pedals is okay by my standards. It seemed like a very Jack White approach to achieving a great sound. Some might say that Kiyoshi is in that same mindset with his sound and song writing that Jack is in, wanting to create something with his guitar that’s totally new, distinct, and fun to listen to… and who’s to say they’re wrong.
Article by: Tom Shackleford
Photos by: Shayne Hanley
If you enjoyed this article you also may like the whiskey tasting we had with Great Good Fine Ok.