Bully Boy Distillers is a family-owned distillery in Boston. Founded by brothers Will and Dave Willis, the company makes craft spirits using a method rich in purity and artisanship. I was given a bottle of their new American Straight Whiskey to sample, and had the opportunity to speak with Dave Willis about the company. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my interview, as well as my thoughts on the company’s latest offering.
Dave Willis Interview: Part One
Q: How long has Bully Boy been around?
A: We started distilling in our current space a little over two years ago. We were doing product development for a good while before the unaged spirits came along– June of 2011. We were more certain about the barrel aged recipes.
Q: How did you and Will get your start?
A: We grew up on a fourth-generation working farm. There was an old workhorse named Bully, named after Teddy Roosevelt. We grew up making cider– there’re about 100 apple trees on the farm– then hard cider, then apple brandy. Will and I went on to do other things. We’d always thought about doing a distillery and there were none in Boston. We thought that it wouldn’t simply be a way to fulfill this passion we had, but that it’d also be a good business decision. It took about six months to get the permits in place and there was a lot of behind the scenes research. Once all that was finished, it opened up quite easily.
Q: What makes “handmade” spirits so special?
A: There’s a lot of specificity with our method. The problem with larger distilleries is they get bleed-in between some of their pots. We have the ability to make really specific cuts to ensure that doesn’t happen – to get the purest ethanol. We make sure the grains and molasses are high quality, even if we have to pay more for it. We get it from Aurora Mills Farm, and it’s 100% organic. When it comes to something like vodka, for instance, we are really good at filtering it. We make sure that the impurities are stripped out. A lot of it is less about the process and more about the kind of art and the sort of ability surrounding the development of the products themselves. It’s important. Some of these other products have been around for a long time, but as the small guy, we can take chances and experiment. Distillers like Jack Daniels are less nimble, I guess. Here, it’s just me and my brother. One of the most exciting things about the small batch movement are the interesting things that are being developed.
Check back next week for part two of the interview.