Robert Cassell has changed the face of distilling in Pennsylvania by literally inventing the license to operate a distillery there. He got the idea to begin distilling in 2003, while working as director of quality assurance at Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. During his time there, he took courses on distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2005, he partnered with his uncle, Andrew Auwerda, and a former Bloomberg LP sales manager, Timothy Yarnall, to launch Philadelphia Distilling in a facility located in an industrial office park in Northeast Philadelphia. By 2011, the company ranked in the top 10 of 300 smaller distilleries operating nationwide, and shipped nearly 120,000 bottles of gin.
In 2014, Rob left Philadelphia Distilling to open New Liberty Distilling just across town in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood. With a passion for whiskey and a new, 240 gallon copper pot still of his own design (Cassell Distilling System) , he continues to experiment with local grains and malts- blazing new trails for craft spirits. Only 2 years after launching his new distillery at New Liberty, he added a 2nd founder/master distiller job to his resume at Connacht Distillery in Ballina, Ireland. His new business partnership with Steven Grasse of Quaker City Mercantile, as it evolves, is creating new, creative options for craft distilling entrepreneurs.
Rob's testimony to the Pennsylvania Senate Law and Justice Committee arguing for reform and his advocacy for lower federal excise taxes on small distilleries has changed the state. These seemingly small moves opened a world of opportunity to the PA distilling market. After 2011, the rest of the craft distilling entrepreneurs in our state had a door to walk through. Since Robert Cassell's founding of Philadelphia Distilling in 2005, the state has gone from 4 to nearly 140 distilleries statewide.