How a father and son team out of York, Maine are making craft spirit history on the shores of New England
“It all started during a family dinner,” recalls David Woods, the owner, founder and lead distiller of Wiggly Bridge Distillery.
It was a joking statement.
“Let's make our own whiskey!”
But according to David, he, and his son David, along with the rest of the family had always, “shared love for good whiskey and a fascination to see how things are made.”
But it wasn’t until after that “joking statement” that the thought of making whiskey was given any weight. “We decided to explore the idea,” he reveals.
“My son David and I researched and studied, and some say obsessed, over how to build a still and process alcohol.”
David continues, “Being fortunate enough to travel to the Caribbean, we decided to build and operate a small hand made copper still on the island of Montserrat to put our research to the test.”
David Woods builds a distillery in York, Maine
“I’m over 60 and have always had an entrepreneurial knack for starting businesses,” David explains.
“I’ve started many businesses over the years. Not all were successful,” he continues.
“But many lessons were learned along the way. Sometimes it’s your failures that you learn from and improve the most from.”
“Although the distillery is where I spend my days at the moment, it is not my only focus. My kids, their spouses, and long time employees help me run businesses ranging from car washes, a salon and spa, oil and propane company and a campground.”
“Years ago, I started a successful scuba diving business. I even gave lectures on
the scuba diving industry.”
That’s quite the resume for any one man. Then in 2013, David and his son took the plunge and decided to add “independent Maine distillery” to that roster of self-started businesses.
The charming façade of Wiggly Bridge, an award-winning York, Maine distillery.
“Wiggly Bridge Distillery started in the heart of York Beach, Maine, a charming and historic seaside village settled in the early 1600s; among the first in Maine.”
“The ocean air and rocky coast of our own hometown is our inspiration, so it’s no wonder that we chose to start our distillery here.”
The York, Maine distillery’s name itself even comes from a local landmark and piece of regional history.
“The Wiggly Bridge is an actual bridge in the town of York,” David tells us.
“It’s actually the world’s smallest pedestrian suspension bridge. And true to its name, it wiggles when you walk on it.”
A Maine distillery making small barrel bourbon and so much more
“We do not source our products,” David is proud to say.
“Our bottles proudly say Distilled and Produced by Wiggly Bridge Distillery.”
Bottles like their Wiggly Bridge White Whisky. Which is as big and bold as an unaged whiskey gets.
Distilled from a mash bill of corn, rye and malted barley, then rested for just a short time in used bourbon barrels, this clear, craft spirit is plenty sweet with a distinct and peppery finish.
Their Small Barrel Bourbon gets aged in charred, new American white oak barrels which impart this award-winner with robust flavors ranging from caramel, oak and dried fruit to cinnamon, honey and clove.
This small barrel bourbon happens to be David’s personal favorite of the group, “I love them all but the bourbon is my go-to.”
Wiggly Bridge’s Small Barrel Bourbon and the rest of their award-winning craft spirits.
When it comes to rum, this Maine distillery has two magnificent options they make by hand.
First up is their Wiggly Bridge White Rum.
Made from Caribbean blackstrap and fancy molasses imported to York, Maine all the way from the British West Indies, adds both a pleasant dryness and contributes to its rich, trademark, buttery mouthfeel.
For their Small Barrel Rum, Wiggly Bridge Distillery, takes their White Rum and ages it in freshly dumped bourbon barrels used to age their small barrel bourbon.
This adds hints of vanilla, cinnamon, caramel, butterscotch and oak to the spirit. Which makes it a wonderful sipper that holds its own in cocktails too.
The recipe for Wiggly Bridge Gin calls for Croatian juniper, which is a milder type of juniper berry. Because of this, the more floral notes of ingredients like jasmine, orris root, angelica root, coriander and orange peels shine through.
The French wheat used to make Wiggly Bridge Vodka leaves it with a sweet, grainy nose and a silky taste that leaves a smooth coating at the back of the mouth on the finish.
A Maine distillery built on traditional methods
“Wiggly Bridge Distillery was started with the belief that being small is an advantage,” David tells us.
He elaborates, “We utilize long forgotten styles and techniques, such as hand building our own pot stills. Every dent and angle uniquely contributes to the flavor of our spirits.”
All that craftsmanship and attention to detail has paid off for David and the team at York, Maine’s Wiggly Bridge Distillery ways.
He tells us, “This small batch technique has earned Wiggly Bridge Distillery more awards than we can count on our hands.”
But success in the craft spirits industry isn’t all juniper berries and lemon zest.
David is the first to admit to there being a number of challenges facing Wiggly Bridge Distillery every day.
“Inventory, storage, sales, cost and the list goes on. It’s not a business for the faint of heart”, David likes to tease.
He offers this bit of advice to anyone entertaining the idea of throwing their hat into the independent distillery business.
“Don’t think that there is any way you’ll be able to get a paycheck from this business for quite a while. Do a well-thought-out business plan, be properly funded to operate at a loss for up to four years before you turn profitability.”
But David is the kind of man that wouldn’t have it any other way.
Because he loves what he does and everything that comes with it.
For him, it’s all about “Sharing my passion with customers and getting to work alongside my son and family.”
David Woods hopes his York, Maine distillery will stay a family-run distillery for future generations.
For David, it boils down to this, “We build and create things.”
“We don’t always see eye to eye on how something should be done or
how to build this or that, but figuring out something difficult is rewarding.”
“The process of growing this business and sharing something we enjoy is not
something every father gets the opportunity to do.”
The best part is, David Woods doesn’t see things slowing down anytime soon for his independent Maine distillery. He has high hopes for the distillery’s future. And a clear idea for what it’s lasting legacy in York, Maine ought to be.
“I want Wiggly Bridge to remain a family-run company. And the hard work inherent with running a distillery is part of the deal for future generations to bear.”
“I don’t believe in trust fund kids. Everyone needs to know what an 80 hour work week looks like.”