By Bill Parry
The Astoria Distilling Company is coming home. The maker of Queens Courage gin has signed a lease to open a tasting room and production space at the Falchi Building, located at 31-00 47th Ave. in Long Island City.
“We’re really excited about it. It’s on the first floor, the first unit on the concourse just inside the main door,” owner Chris Murillo said. “It’s not a very large space, only about 1,000 square feet, but we have our foot in the door at Falchi. As older tenants move out we’ll be able to move into a larger space.”
For now, Murillo has enough room for a 50-gallon still, which will make his operation the first distillery in Queens since the Prohibition era in the ’20s. The remaining space will become a tasting room where customers can sample Queens Courage as well as craft beers and wines from upstate New York.
The bulk of his production will continue at a Rochester-area facility for the time being. Queens Courage is already available in 150 nightspots around New York state, including Mundo at the Paper Factory in Long Island City, and the Sparrow Tavern in Astoria.
It’s a refined interpretation of Old Tom gin, an old-fashioned style that was popular in the 1800s, Murillo explained. Queens Courage is sweetened with locally sourced honey with hints of grapefruit and malt, and can be used to craft classic cocktails.
The gin rated 96 points at the 2015 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, a Manhattan-based competition that provides expert evaluation for producers, marketers, importers, distributors and retailers. Murillo is creating additional spirits as well.
“We also pay homage to the cultural heritage represented in Queens with ouzo inspired by the Greek community in Astoria as well as limoncello for the Italians,” Murillo said. He is waiting on permits, which can take four to six months and is hoping for a soft opening before the holidays.
“Falchi is a great building and its parent company, Jamestown, has been fantastic,” Murillo said. “They see the growth and development aspect of Astoria Distilling and they’ve been a great partner. Your landlord is your biggest stakeholder and they think that our company is in line with their vision.”
The location will just be several blocks away from where Murillo started up his business in 2011 when he began taking classes at the Entrepreneur Space at 36-47 37th St., run by the Queens Economic Development Corp. Now almost five years old, the E-Space is a food-and-business incubator that guides 150 to 175 clients in starting their own businesses while using the facility’s industrial-sized kitchen, classrooms and office space that entrepreneurs can rent at below market rates as they build their businesses.
“It’s really great that they’re staying in Queens, especially at the Falchi Building,” Rob MacKay, the QEDC’s director of marketing and tourism, said. “It’s a bittersweet thing when people leave. The Astoria Distilling Company has been with us from the idea stage. It makes us prideful to see a company grow wings and fly away, but as an incubator that’s what we’re here for.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr