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Dining & Entertaining

Science of spirits

Physicist mixes local lore with innovative ideas to create craft distillery

Suburban Life Magazine

Quincy Street Distillery is made up of equal parts creativity, science and history. 

Owner and founder Derrick Mancini worked as a physicist for 20 years before opening Quincy Street Distillery in Riverside in 2012. The craft distillery, one of the first in the state, currently produces 12 artisanal spirits, including whiskey, gin, vodka and even absinthe. The facility also includes a tasting room, speakeasy bar and retail shop.

Mancini says his background in science has helped him with the production aspect of distilling, but local history also has been a significant source of inspiration. The Laughton Bros bourbon whiskey is named after two fur traders from the 1830s who ran a tavern in the area. Another bottle is named for Bourbon Spring, a historic site just a short walk from the distillery.

The distillery started sales in October 2012 and the cocktail bar opened in December 2013. As the first distillery in a historically dry town, Mancini expected potential resistance during the permitting process. But he says that the community and the local board of trustees have been supportive of the business since its inception. It didn’t hurt that Mancini, who lives a block from the distillery, has lived in the area for 20 years.

When Mancini opened Quincy Street four years ago, there were only four other distilleries in Illinois. Today, there are about 28 total and Mancini expects that number to continue to grow. He should know, he was the founding president of the Illinois Craft Distillers Association. Craft distillers use small-batch methods that allow them to experiment, while major distillers produce spirits in bulk.

“It allows us to revive styles and flavor profiles that may harken back to an earlier time or it could be brand new ideas that some distillers create,” says Mancini. “I think it’s that ability to put more variety in the marketplace that’s the biggest advantage of craft distillers.”

You can see a sample of that variety in Quincy Street’s products. One unique option is a special release of an Illinois straight bourbon whiskey. Mancini says that Quincy Street is probably the only distiller in the state currently selling this type of spirit, which must be aged for two years and made entirely in Illinois. 

“We’re constantly innovating,” says Mancini. “For a very small distillery we produce a lot of different products.”

Though relatively new to the area, Quincy Street has already become a fixture in the community. 

“The reaction has been very positive. We don’t really have any standalone bars in the village,” says Mancini. 

The speakeasy bar is especially popular with Riverside residents. 

“We have lots of people visit from out of town, but we also have a lot of regular clientele, so we’ve essentially become a sort of neighborhood bar as well,” he says. 

Spirits from Quincy Street Distillery are available at more than 30 bars and restaurants across the state and can be purchased at Binny’s Beverage Depots. Tours of the distillery cost $10 a person, last one and a half hours and include tastings. For more information on tours and hours, call 708-357-7414 or visit www.quincystreetdistillery.com.

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