Weekend Getaway: Renewing Your Spirits in Purcellville


Whether you’re looking for a throwback to simpler times or something a little stronger than Virginia’s award-winning wines, Purcellville should be on your must see list.

I have 50 unread emails, a page long to-do list, a project deadline at noon, and my co-worker just spent precious time editing my email text to change 6:00 p.m. to 6pm. That’s what’s important at this moment?! At 10:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.

The only way to survive the week is to plan for the weekend. I check for ridiculously cheap flights to a Caribbean island. There never are any.

Plan B -- day trip.

I need to get out of town and escape this circus. I text a friend, and we throw out suggestions for anything within an hour’s drive. The easy decision is a winery, and there is no shortage of great wineries close to Alexandria. But where do you go when you’re looking for something a little different? Or maybe something a little stronger?

Purcellville, VA.

As we drive in to historic downtown Purcellville on Route 7, I feel like I’ve stepped back to a simpler time, onto the set of The Andy Griffith Show.

The local library is on the left, a gun store on the right, and there’s even a diner on Main Street for burgers and shakes. Various collectibles spill out from the antique store and onto the sidewalk--rusted milk jugs, iron tables, painted benches. My heart begins to slow and my mind relax. I take a deep breath. The air is crisp, clean ... and quiet. No sirens. No motorcades. No honking horns. Peace.

Catoctin Creek Distillery
120 W. Main St.
Purcellville, VA 20132
Hours: Mon - Closed
Tues-Thurs - 1-5pm
Fri - 1-7pm
Sat - 12-7pm
Sun - 1-6pm

Across the street from the burgers and shakes sits a renovated 1920s garage, red brick with large windows to let in the sunlight. This is Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, where Becky and Scott Harris have been making award-winning whisky, gin and brandy since 2009. Their flagship Roundstone Rye is Virginia’s most awarded whiskey!

We walk in to a bright and wide open tasting room. The exposed ceiling and metal accents give it an industrial warehouse feel. We find seats at a large rounded bar at the back and are greeted by the bartender.

“How are you doing today? Thanks for coming in. Where are you coming from?”

After making time for some small talk, he begins to explain the tasting options. He lets us know we can do a straight spirits tasting or a mini cocktail tasting. We opted for the mini-cocktails, one each with the Mosby’s Spirit, the Roundstone Rye and the Watershed Gin. It was like watching a mad scientist work as you watched him pour and blend each drink. Then, he walked us through how each is made - the ingredients, the barrels, the notes and noses. While you’re there, you can also enjoy a 30-minute tour of the distillery to learn more about how Catoctin Creek makes their internationally award-winning spirits.

As we casually sip our cocktails and continue to talk with the staff, we also learn a bit more about Purcellville and get some suggestions for where to go next. For us, there was no question about what goes best with the warm caramel and maple flavors of a good whisky -- slow-cooked barbecue.

Monk’s BBQ
251 N. 21st St.
Purcellville, VA 20132
Hours: Mon - 5-10pm
Tues - 11:30am-10pm
Wed-Thurs - 11:30am-11pm
Fri-Sat - 11:30am-12am
Sun - 11:30am-9pm

From the Catoctin Creek Distillery, we followed our noses down North 21st Street about two blocks to some of the most mouth-watering, fall-off-the-bone barbecue we’ve ever tasted. Monk’s BBQ is another small, family-owned business. Brian and Kirsten Jenkins started Monk’s as a food truck in 2011. You may have run into them at some of the area wineries on the weekends. They opened this permanent location in Purcellville in 2014.

As we walk up to Monk’s, it looks like a large, white and weather-worn barn, with piles of firewood stacked high outside and a lone guy manning the smoker. I think I want to bottle that barbecue smoker smell and bring it home as a candle. There’s nothing like the smell of good brisket to bring you back to a slow, fall saturday with your favorite college football team playing on the TV and a cool breeze blowing outside.

Monk’s is a no fuss, authentic barbecue joint. The brisket and pulled pork lived up to the incredible smells outside -- so tender and full of flavor. And don’t forget to order the collard greens. The vinegar and pork flavors are a perfect complement to the smoked meats.

We sit at Monk’s for a long while, eating, chatting and laughing. For a moment, we forget about the circus of work that awaits us only an hour away. We feel like we’re on Aunt Bee’s front porch without a worry in the world and everything important right in front of us -- good food and good friends.   

Reluctantly, we make our way back to the city late in the afternoon. But, we keep a little of that Purcellville spirit, and spirits, with us to carry us through the next week. In a few days, we’ll plan our next Virginia weekend getaway, assuming of course that there’s not a huge sale on flights to the Caribbean.