White Dog Distilling Makes Local Liquor in Pawtucket
The liquor company crafts small batch whiskey, gin, white rum, bourbon, moonshine and limoncello.
Pawtucket is the unofficial craft beer and spirits capital of Rhode Island. One of the latest local liquor companies to launch is White Dog Distilling, a bar and distillery located in the historic Lorraine Mills on Mineral Spring Avenue in Pawtucket.
“White Dog is slang for moonshine,” says one of the four partners, Alecia Catucci. “Every spirit starts out as moonshine. It’s the recipe that determines if it’s whiskey, bourbon, gin or rum.”
The distillery’s tasting room originally opened in April 2018 in what is now its current production room, a 350-square-foot-space that had bar seating for four people and a standing-room-only floor plan. It expanded this past April to the room in front of production to become 650 square feet with a twelve-person bar plus lots of lounge seating where they serve cocktails and tastings.
White Dog Distilling’s four founding partners, affectionately called “the pack,” include Alecia and her husband, Carlo Catucci, Eric Sylvestre and Vincent Greene. All four partners have careers in different fields, and three of them devote part of their time to the distillery. Carlo Catucci is a physics teacher and chair of the science department at Scituate High School, Silvestre works for the VA and Greene is a lawyer. Meanwhile, Alecia works part-time for Fireworks Catering, spends daytime working at the distillery and joins the other partners at night. “I do twenty-five hours here and I do less of my other job, but all the other partners have their full-time jobs,” Alecia says.
Making spirits started out as a hobby for her husband, Carlo. He is a big rum drinker and was making whiskey and rum in their basement with an alternate fuel license that allowed him to make it, but not sell it. Three years ago, Carlo and Alecia went on a date in Pawtucket, hopping around to some of the breweries, including Bucket Brewery (which is now Smug), Foolproof and Crooked Current, in the same mill building where they are currently located.
They were inspired by Crooked Current’s up-from-the-bootstraps story, and booked an appointment to see the space where the brewery first started. Once they saw where Crooked all began (and before Crooked, it was Bucket Brewery’s first location), they signed a lease in October of 2016. “There wasn’t really a plan to open a distillery, but when the opportunity of having a small space came up, we had conversations for a month or less and decided to give it a try.” Now, just a few years in, they’ve already doubled in size.
White Dog Distilling started out making unaged spirits, including corn whiskey, gin, white rum and moonshine. The distillers graduated to aging whiskey in barrels, including their Cornucopia whiskey, which is aged and spiced, and bourbon, aged in new American Oak barrels. They also make limoncello based on Carlo’s late aunt Lella’s recipe from Italy. The team has a fifty-gallon still that they use to make everything. They create one spirit at a time during the distilling process, hold the liquor in totes, then switch it up.
White Dog Distilling has a system for keeping track of each spirit and each partner’s schedule. Three partners work at the distillery to produce the liquor. Juggling full-time work schedules with the distillery is a challenge, but one they’ve been willing to take on. “We have a production calendar that’s color-coded,” says Alecia. “We have production, we have events, we have labor all marked.”
So far they are happy with the expansion of the tasting room, but they hope to boost production. They recently purchased a 150-gallon mashtun to make distilling a little easier.
“It will help us improve efficiency and increase production in specifically the bourbon. Instead of having to do three mashes and three strains, and three distillations, we do one mash and hopefully no strains,” Alecia says. “It will eliminate twelve hours of work for us.”
White Dog Distilling will always be a small batch distillery. “It’s definitely meant to be a business that can grow. We fund it ourselves, so we are very pragmatic about monitoring our growth,” says Alecia. “We’re just taking it step by step.”
560 Mineral Spring Ave., Unit 2-143, Pawtucket, whitedogdistilling.com