Northampton Community College (NCC) craft distillery students went through the process of creating their own spirits at Doan Distillery in Quakertown, PA this March. Students must complete this process as a part of the program at NCC.  

The class experimented first with creating a coffee whiskey, which they tasted and noted the complexities of on March 21. The recipe was simple, corn, barley, coffee malt, and a few other flavorings, like chocolate.  

Students each brought their own recipe for a gin to Doan Distillery, where Owner, Christopher LaBonge, helped them navigate the distillation process. LaBonge teaches the distillery and maturation operations course for NCC’s new and exciting craft distillery program.  

Each of the students added their botanicals, flavors and ingredients, to mason jars to create their own special concoction. The students start with a grain neutral spirit, which means the grains, like barley, wheat, corn, and so forth, are distilled with no added flavors or aging. After adding the botanicals from their recipes, the ingredients macerate and ferment before going through the limbic system where the alcohol is pulled from the spirit to a drinkable level and then finished in the final step.

“Every gin must have some level of juniper. That botanical makes it a gin,” said NCC student, Denise Pierson-Balik. Adding anything else, she says, will connect flavors in a way that’s unique to each student’s recipe.  

Limbic System

The students learned to identify important steps in distilling and honed in on the key qualities of the spirit. 

NCC partners with several local area distilleries that offer internships and help teach courses in the program, including Doan Distillery, Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, Silverback Distillery, Wardog Spirits, and County Seat Spirits. McCall Brewing and Franklin Hill Vineyards help students learn about fermentation. 

“We really are one of the only colleges in the region to offer a craft distillery program. It’s a growing business and extremely popular in our area, and students can put their skills to good use in the industry after completing the program. Our goal is to have programs for wine, beer and distilling in the future,” says Director, Culinary Arts, Hospitality & Sport Management at NCC, David F. Schweiger.  

Watch the coverage of the still creations and learn more about the program at