Foobooz that master distiller Rob Cassell is leaving Philadelphia Distilling. The company, which launched in 2005 with PA’s first post-Prohibition distilling license, has become quite well known as the producer of Bluecoat gin. Cassell confirmed his forthcoming departure to us via text, so we reached out to company president Andrew Auwerda to find out what happened and assess how the change might affect our booze habits.
“Robert leaving is not something that I - or our shareholders - would prefer happen,” Auwerda started, but went on to explain that drinkers shouldn’t worry - the products will remain exactly the same. “We have two assistant distillers on staff already, a third is starting next week, and we’re looking to hire a fourth. One of these guys has distilled for us for five years. His job won’t change at all. And neither will Bluecoat or any of our other brands.”
Philadelphia Distilling also currently makes Penn 1681 vodka, Vieux Carré absinthe, XXX Shine corn whiskey and The Bay vodka, which was just introduced this year. “I don’t foresee us introducing a new product in 2013 now, but we weren’t really planning to anyway. We don’t want to be churning out brands just to churn them out.”
Cassell is currently working at the distillery part time during a transition phase, training staff and making sure everything will go smoothly after he leaves. He will remain a shareholder of the company with a significant amount of stock. “I don’t know where Robert is headed or what his plans are," Auwerda confides. “I just really, really hope he’s not going to one of our competitors. I actually made him a significant offer - six figures - to try to keep him with us, but he turned it down.”
Auwerda is searching for a replacement master distiller, but is also hoping a leader will emerge from the team of distillers that is already working at the company. “We’ll definitely miss the work he did on the political side [Cassell has been active in getting craft-distillery-friendly legislation passed on both state and national levels], and Robert is super-talented, but there will be no drop in quality in our spirits and we’ll have no trouble keeping up with demand,” he assures us. “In fact, I’m going to Virginia tomorrow because The Bay has been selling so well in Maryland that we’re expanding distribution.”