Have a Drink at Lock 1 Distilling Company, Oswego’s Only Distillery
December 31, 2021
I first discovered Lock 1 Distilling through a Groupon deal back in April 2019. A few friends and I went to the distillery to enjoy a tour and tasting and quickly fell in love! Vodka, whiskey, gin, and liqueurs along with custom cocktails and delicious foods? Of course Lock 1 has become a favorite hangout for our friend group. We visit regularly and indulge in all the delicious food and drinks they have to offer. So if you enjoy drinking a great cocktail or sampling some incredible spirits, make sure you visit Lock 1 Distilling Company in Phoenix, New York.
The History of Lock 1 Distilling
Lock 1 Distilling Company is the outcome of a trio of cousins who shared a passion for craft spirits and noticed the increasing popularity of small batch distilleries. Brenden Backus, Stephen Dates, and Kevin Dates are proud to have established the first distillery in Oswego County since the Prohibition. It also meets the qualifications to be classified as a farm distillery in New York State, meaning 75% of the ingredients must be sourced from within the state. Being so passionate about their local community, Lock 1 strives to use 100% locally sourced ingredients, ensuring a grain to glass experience honoring the natural flavors of the local land.
The distillery was established in the heart of Phoenix in 2015. Its name comes from its location, right across the street from Lock #1 of the Oswego Barge Canal. (Fun fact: the canal was a popular route for bootleggers during the Prohibition!) Today it remains the only distillery located in Oswego County.
The “Cuse Juice” Drama
Lock 1 gained a bit of popularity back in the summer of 2019 when it lost a battle to Syracuse University over the naming rights of “Cuse Juice”, their popular orange liqueur. Despite its popularity and its clever tagline, “The nectar of the sun from the city that sees none”, the university argued that the they maintained the rights to the “Cuse” name. Thus, Lock 1 was forced to discontinue producing Cuse Juice, much to the sadness of their loyal customers.
But don’t worry, Lock 1 has continued to develop several other amazing products under the guidance of master distiller Brenden Backus. Including “Orange Excuse”, a member of the Excuse Liqueurs series.
What liquor does Lock 1 Distilling make?
In short, lots! And seriously everything is delicious. They don’t rush into new flavors, the Lock 1 Crew takes their time developing new recipes. They taste test them over and over again using the freshest ingredients sourced locally, which also provides some of the best flavors.
Their first product, Ryze Vodka took a year to master. But that time paid off! Ryze has become a local staple and has won several awards over the years. The vodka is triple distilled and triple filtered to provide the best quality possible.
This gin starts off with your typical juniper, but is macerated with several other botanicals to create a relaxing and refreshing drink. Notes of lavender and chamomile make this gin unique.
Cut down on the juniper and add a whole lot of citrus to get the Drawbridge Gin. Another name that honors local landmarks.
F. A. Waldron Bourbon Whiskey
Lock 1’s classic whiskey is distilled from corn and red winter wheat. The 107 proof whiskey is made using methods that predate the prohibition. And there’s a reason those methods have lasted so long! The whiskey, which also has a rye counterpart, is smooth and flavorful.
Inferno Cinnamon Whiskey
This spicy cinnamon whiskey pays homage to the historic fire that destroyed the village of Phoenix. On September 23, 1916, a fire broke out at the Sinclair Chair Company and quickly spread to neighboring buildings. Since this whiskey was made in 2017, 101 years after the fire, it sits at 101 proof.
Candy Cane Peppermint Whiskey
A seasonal favorite, this whisky is stronger in flavor than in alcohol. Which makes it a delicious addition to any warm beverage on a cold winter day. (It’s no surprise that this whiskey makes a great Christmas gift!)
Made from a flavored, 60-proof whiskey, Harry Potter fans will have a blast creating their own butter beers with the liquid butterscotch.
This line of liqueurs features a variety of different fruit flavors. Currently, Lock 1 makes Pineapple Excuse, Mango Excuse, Coconut Excuse, and Orange Excuse. But they are always looking for more excuses. 😉
Lock 1’s Exclusive Barrel Program
When we first visited Lock 1 back in 2019, we learned about their barrel program, a way for them to minimize their investments while aging their whiskey. Members of the barrel program can invest in a barrel, providing capital to the distillery so they can continue other operations.
Investors are then invited to the distillery every 6 months to taste the whiskey as it ages. During the first visit, you watch as Brenden fills the barrel with unaged whiskey, and continue visiting until the barrel is ready to be bottled. One of the best parts of the barrel program is getting to go behind the scenes of the whiskey aging process and learn all about it. As each barrel is tested and tasted every 6 months, you can also watch as the ABV is calculated. And you can even pound in the bung to reseal the barrel.
After you taste your whiskey at each visit, you receive a small bottle of the semi-aged whiskey to take home. But when it is finished aging, you receive a full bottle and can purchase additional bottles at cost. This is also when you get your money back – with interest. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
With a little savings and a little patience, you can gain money AND get free whiskey. So, it should come as no surprise that the barrel program is currently full and not accepting new members. (And yes, several of the current barrel program members are my closest friends. It’s pretty awesome.)
The program currently produces bourbon and rye whiskeys, but Brenden has hopes to add barrel-rested gin to the mix in the near future.
Visiting Lock 1 Distilling in Phoenix
Okay, okay, enough about the alcohol. Just kidding – you can’t give it enough praise! But in all seriousness, Lock 1 does more than make fantastic liquor. At the taproom, you can also enjoy a wide variety of local craft beer along with cocktails made from the house spirits. Plus, the kitchen offers a small menu of food (to help you soak up the alcohol you’re undoubtedly drinking). I highly recommend getting some wood-fired pizza. It’s my go-to dish there!
The distillery is also host to several events. Wednesdays are open-mic nights, Thursdays are for trivia, and live music is popular on the weekends. The taproom and cocktail lounge is big enough for small events, yet cozy at the same time.