Standing in front of the industrial black door on Cedric Street in the Newmarket District, one can’t help but feel a bit like there’s a speakeasy on the other side. Marked with nothing but the number “44” in cheap white stickers, the lack of marketing or signage only adds to the intrigue. It’s so unremarkable, you might hesitate to enter. Go in. You’ll be glad you did.
Since opening in a small garage across the street in 2010 Bully Boy has gone nowhere but up, and the new space is a testament to that growth. With a swanky tasting room and more than five times the distillation capacity than before, owners (and brothers) Will and Dave Willis are positioned for the future of Boston’s first craft distillery.
While other small distillers may feel pressure to crank out new products constantly, Bully Boy eschews growing simply for the sake of growing. “With small brands like us, there’s an expectation of a new product every nine months. That’s not us,” Will says. As the business grew a division of responsibilities was needed. Dave handles development and production while Will takes care of marketing and sales.
The new 8000-square foot space is responsible for making Bully Boy’s vodka, white rum, and white whiskey. The gin is still made in the original building utilizing their 150-gallon still. I ask Will how they acquired their distillation knowledge. Was it schooling? An apprenticeship? “Nope,” he replies simply. “Trial and error.”
Their expansion is aimed at more than product growth, however. It's just as much about creating a space where the brothers can show off their hard work to the cocktail-loving masses, and that’s where the tasting room comes in. “We’re a word-of-mouth brand,” Will says. “Our new facility lets us interact with our customers more.”
While the production floor is gleaming and impressive, the tasting room is comfortable and full of personality. The 26-seat room features a 20-foot black marble top bar, charmingly quirky floral wallpaper, custom-built banquette booths and vintage oak window frames created.
To the left of the tasting room are all the aging barrels, lined almost to the ceiling. A conference table and hanging chandelier make for a cozy meeting and event space nestled amongst the giant wooden barrels.
Those sitting at the bar have front-row seats to the wide open distillation floor. Front and center is the gigantic 750-gallon copper pot still custom-made in Germany. Gorgeous and shiny, this piece of equipment is central to everything Bully Boy does here.
Through the windows one sees a ten-foot painting created by local painter Matt Perdoni. It depicts the brothers’ great-grandfather riding his prized horse Bully Boy, named for Theodore Roosevelt’s famous compliment “bully”.
Turn to the right and you see something truly amazing, the distillery’s “laboratory”. Over 200 bottles adorn tall shelving accessible by rolling library ladder. In varying states of fill, these bottles are filled with Dave’s experiments in aging, blends, and ingredients. Dave tests hundreds of recipes each year. One current experiment is a wheated bourbon, aging is a small barrel. It’s mad science at its tastiest.
If you’re here to sample Bully Boy’s wares, they do not disappoint. They offer a full menu of concoctions sure to quench any thirst. Popular cocktails include Dave’s Daly (Lemongrass-soaked vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup) and the Cucumber-Basil Gimlet (Estate gin, lime juice, simple syrup, muddled cucumber and basil). Suspended above the bar, a barrel dispenses rum Old Fashioned's. They even offer cocktails on draft. Today’s offering is a Salted Watermelon Lime Rickey.
The tasting room has a separate license from the distillery room. This unique permit stipulates anything they serve must be made themselves. This means the bar staff develop and make hopped liquors, syrups, triple secs, cherry liqueurs...everything they need.
As Will pours samples of their spirits into Old Fashioned glasses branded with the Bully Boy equine logo, I ask about the “44” on the front door. Will confirms proper signage is in the works, and will adorn the building soon. I have to ask. Ever thought about getting a horse? Will shakes his head.
“My grandparents had horses, but we’re not much into that,” he says.
No mascot then, I ask?
Will laughs. “No mascot.”
44 Cedric St., Boston, 617-442-6000, bullyboydistillers.com