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Founders Will and Dave Willis Take Us inside Bully Boy's New Distillery

By Alexandra Hall | March 9, 2018 | Food & Drink

Bully Boy, Boston’s hometown small-batch distillery, is shaking—and stirring—things up.


Founders Will and Dave Willis in Bully Boy’s new 8,000-squarefoot distillery.

Perched above a swanky yet cozy room filled with leather seating and warm lighting in Boston’s Newmarket District is a mural depicting the great-grandfather of brothers Will and Dave Willis, riding his favorite farm workhorse, named Bully Boy. And the scene he hangs above? Well, that would be the newest endeavor of his two grandsons—a tasting room and distillery for their local line of spirits, which, by no coincidence whatsoever, also happens to be named Bully Boy.

“Up until now, so many Bostonians were excited to drink our spirits, and they were also curious to visit the source where we made them,” says Will, who cofounded the company—Boston’s first craft distillery—with his brother six years ago and located their sparkling, new 8,000-squarefoot spot across the street from the original distillery (still in operation). “We had been doing a lot of off-site events, but never had an opportunity to host them. Now Bully Boy fans get to see the stuff being made right in front of them, and then sit back and drink it in a cocktail. Which is actually kind of surreal.”

Those spirits—all made in small batches in the 750-gallon copper pot, get served up in the company’s “still to glass” cocktail program, by rotating specialty cocktails with housemade syrups and infusions. And if you’d rather just sip and savor the hard stuff straight, the staff offers spirit flights. There’s a gargantuan window at the bar with a bird’seye view of said still, as well as of the “laboratory” that holds 200-plus bottles of test spirits (made available only on-site) accessible by an adorably oldschool rolling library ladder. Character also oozes from the space for private events; dinner parties and tastings with head distiller Dave take place around its sprawling cedar chef’s table beneath chandeliers, framed by more than 100 wooden barrels of aging whiskeys and rums.

As Will explains it, this was all the natural next step for the local brand. “We’ve always wanted to be Boston’s own hometown distillery,” he says. “We’re still a little bit of an insider’s secret that people who relish being in-theknow, know about. We’re not sold everywhere, which means the brand feels like a discovery for people.” So in that sense, you can consider the entire tasting room an extension of that feeling. “This personalizes the whole experience of drinking Bully Boy, and brings it home for people,” Will adds.

Meanwhile, an ode to one of the most personal family aspects of the business—made even more local on one of our most inimitable holidays—is right around the corner. In the tasting room, near that aforementioned painting, is a plaque that the Willis brothers’ great-grandfather had made for the birthday of his horse, Bully Boy. That birthdate was March 17, 1926—which would be St. Patrick’s Day. For so many reasons, says Will, “We can’t wait to have people come celebrate that.” B

ully Boy Distillers, 44 Cedric St., 617.442.6000,


Photography by: Photography by Gabriella Riggieri