Annandale Blog

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Local residents will soon have a place to enjoy homemade spirits when Fall Church Distillers opens this spring.

The establishment, at 442 S. Washington St. in Falls Church, will have two parts, says owner Mike Paluzzi: There will be a distillery with a 300-gallon still where customers can try made-on-the spot whiskey, vodka, rum, gin, and brandy with unique food pairings plus a bar Tuscan café-style décor offering high-end wine, craft beer, and small plates of food.

“It’s as much about the experience as the alcohol,” says Paluzzi, who notes that the food will be designed to complete the drinks. Falls Church Distillers will be a place to enjoy happy hour, with things like unique cocktails and bruschetta or whiskey with honey, rather than a full dinner.

The exact opening will be “somewhat at the whim of government,” says Paluzzi, an IT professional who lives in Seven Corners. A distillery requires more red tape than the permits and licenses needed to open a standard restaurant or bar. “The process takes at least six months and we’re four months in.”

“The City of Falls Church has been incredibly helpful,” he says, noting that Fairfax County, where he explored first for possible locations, has even more restrictive regulations.

Paluzzi plans to produce about 100 gallons of alcohol a week. The distillery will sell bottles to customers and other restaurants. Bottling will be done on site.

There will be seating for 60 to 70 people. In the future, he might host special events, like chef nights, and classes on distillation.

Falls Church Distillers will feature on its walls rotating displays art from the organization Let Art Live On, which will be available for purchase.

In recognition of the distillery’s location at Tinner Hill, Paluzzi is planning an art exhibition with the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation during the opening commemorating the site of the first rural NAACP chapter.

His oldest son, Lorenzo, who has a degree in chemistry, will be the chief distiller, so Paluzzi sees Falls Church Distillers as an opportunity for the two of them to so something together.

This will be Paluzzi’s first business venture, although he has a “wine-loving background.” He grew up in an Italian community in Pennsylvania by the New York state line where everyone grew grapes and made their own wine, aperitifs, and liqueur.

He settled in California after leaving the Air Force, where he “fell in love with the wineries” and learned all about wine making. Now, Paluzzi wants to bring distilling back to Virginia.

“Virginia was the birthplace of spirits in America,” he says, noting that at one time George Washington was the largest distiller in the country. Now there are just a little over 40 in the state and there hasn’t been one in Fairfax County since A. Smith Bowman moved its distillery from Reston to Fredericksburg in 1988.

Falls Church Distillers is on the former site of Mobu Kids, an indoor playground for children which plans to reopen to Fairfax County. “We’re turning it into an adult playground,” Paluzzi says.