Like Whiskey for Chocolate, at Widow Jane

Like Whiskey for Chocolate, at Widow Jane

IMG_2612 Darn, this is dangerous.  My souvenir tin of Dominican Spiced Hot Chocolate from the Cacao Prieto Distillery, the maker of Widow Jane Bourbon, is tempting me every night after dinner.  I regret buying it… okay, I don’t regret buying it!

I recently visited the Redhook, Brooklyn, facility to taste the full Widow Jane line-up.  What I witnessed was one of the most unique urban distillery experiences.  Cacao Preto is BOTH an artisan distillery and a bean-to-bar chocolate maker. Founder Daniel Prieto Preston, an aerospace engineer, comes from a family who’s been farming organic cacao in the Dominican Republic for more than 100 years.

IMG_2608Widow Jane spirits was a bit of an afterthought, though a very fortunate afterthought.  The chocolate making team learned that residual oils released during the cacao production process could be distilled.  After some experimentation, Preston solidified the distilling sister operation, Widow Jane, not long after the chocolate production business was established.

I’ve sold Widow Jane Bourbon so frequently on the mention of its’ water source… it was time to really understand the Widow Jane mine.  Widow Jane is the only operation I’ve visited that procures its water far from the distillery.  The Widow Jane mine partially lies within Preston’s family private property in Rosendale, New York, an upstate region knowIMG_2619n for it natural cement.  The area’s cement industry peaked in the 1800s and contributed to some of our most known landmarks, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and even the United States Capitol!

Left in the stone’s place is water in historic limestone caves, with ideal chemical properties that equal the quality of water in our best whiskey areas like Scotland and Kentucky.  “Whiskey”, after all, is the anglicization of the classic Gaelic word, uisge, meaning “water.”

Widow Jane’s water is not the only ingredient solidly rooted in American history.  Like many other distilleries in our region, Widow Jane is expanding its use of heirloom grain.  I tasted the Bloody Butcher Bourbon from 85% Bloody Butcher New York grown corn.  This organic, open pollinated, non-GMO variety has Appalachia origins and bears flecks of red mixed onto the white kernel.  I couldn’t avoid nosing it over and over again, so compelling!

IMG_2626Leaving the distillery, I was struck by all the ways that Widow Jane surprised me, including the tallest column still I’ve ever seen in New York City.  Now my only conundrum… this evenings’ nightcap, bourbon or hot chocolate?

Widow Jane and more great finds are available at

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*Reposted with permission from Girl Meets Vine.