Categories: Life & Arts
What ever your pleasure — whiskey, gin, vodka or moonshine — you can now find spirits that were hand-crafted close to home.
Since 2006, when New York created a “farm distiller” license, entrepreneurs have been taking a shot at liquor-making across the state.
There hasn’t been this much legal booze-making in the Empire State since before Prohibition.
“There’s been a lot of growth,” says Kenneth Wortz, co-owner of Kymar Farm Distillery in Schoharie County.
“I think there were 15 in the state in 2011, when we got our license, and today I would guess there are probably 55 to 60 in operation across the state.”
To become licensed as a farm distillery, at least 75 percent of your product must be made from New York food and farm products.
New York is “one of the best states in the country to be a craft distiller,” along with Oregon and Michigan, James Rodewald, author of “American Spirit: An Exploration of the Craft Distilling Revolution,” recently told the Wall Street Journal.
And with the Craft New York Act, which took effect in December, distilleries are now allowed to serve full-size drinks and cocktails, not just the quarter-ounce samples previously allowed.
The Gazette talked to the operators of six distilleries in Saratoga, Schoharie, Warren, Washington and Albany counties. Five of these distilleries sell and distribute their products to liquor stores and restaurants throughout our region. Four of them offer tastings and tours at their distilleries.
Near our region, you can also visit Cooperstown Distillery (www.cooperstowndistillery.com) in Otsego County, and Harvest Spirits Farm Distillery (harvestspirits.com) in Columbia County.
Albany Distilling company
WHAT: Coal Yard New Make Whiskey, Ironweed Whiskey, Quackenbush Still House Rum
WHERE: 78 Montgomery St., Albany
WHEN: Tastings from 5-8 p.m. Thur., 2-7 p.m. Sat.; tours at 5 and 7 p.m. on Thur. and 2, 4 and 6 p.m. on Sat., book tours online
MORE INFO: www.albanydistilling.com, 621-7191, Facebook
A farm distillery doesn’t have to be out in the country. Albany Distilling Company Inc., the first legal hard liquor operation in Albany County since Prohibition, is in downtown Albany, just off Broadway, near the Albany Pump Station.
“As far as being north of Brooklyn goes, we are one of the very few urban distilleries between here and Rochester,” says John Curtin, co-owner with Matthew Jager.
But about 95 percent of their ingredients come from farms in the state.
“Schoharie Valley, Southern Tier, Finger Lakes area,” Curtin says. “We just did get some corn in from Glenmont, here in Albany County. Essentially, our goal is to get things as locally grown as possible.”
Albany Distilling is one of the few places in the state that makes rum, and their Quackenbush Still House Rum is the first made in the city since about 1810. “In a homage to that lost part of our history, we decided to start making rum,” Curtin says.
In the 1750s, Dutch settlers drank beer, wine and cider. Things changed during the French and Indian War, when the British came to town with a penchant for rum.
Albany Distilling is located near the site of an old rum distillery, which was excavated and then buried when a parking lot was being built by the city.
“Rum is made under a separate license. It’s not a farm product. Since that’s the case, we cannot offer tastes of the rum on the premises,” Curtin says.
However, this spring and summer, thanks to the Craft New York Act, the distillery will be serving cocktails in addition to whiskey samples.
A new product is also in the works.
“We’re going to get a new still that we will be using to make gin. Hopefully, we’ll have a gin this summer.”
Springbrook Hollow Farm Distillery
WHAT: Two Sisters Vodka, Sly Fox Gin, Howl at the Moonshine
WHERE: 133 Clements Road, Queensbury
WHEN: Tours and tastings 12-5 p.m. Fri. to Sun.; open Tues.-Sun. beginning mid-April. Open later in summer.
MORE INFO: www.springbrookhollow.com, 338-3130, Facebook
In the olden days, people who lived near Dave Bannon’s farm got their water from a place called Springbrook Hollow.
This spring or summer, if you go to Springbrook Hollow Farm Distillery, you can see the spring, where they get the water to make spirits.
Five miles south of Lake George, the 200-acre farm offers visitors a tour of the former horse barn where they make their liquor, and outdoor seating with views of French Mountain.
Bannon and three partners — Ken Rohne, Mike Forcier and Tony DeSantis — started the business in November 2014.
“Seventy-five percent of our grain comes from New York. The corn and the rye comes from Easton, which is 40 minutes from us. It’s non-GMO corn and non-GMO rye. The vodka is made from organic wheat, which comes from the center part of the state. So it’s organic and non-GMO,” says Bannon.
“We do everything right there. We even clean our grain. We have a fanning mill from 1880 that we dug up. A friend of mine had it in his barn and we’re using it to clean our grain.”
In the next few months, they plan to release several new products: limoncello, orangecello and three flavored vodkas.
Kymar Farm Distillery
WHAT: Schoharie Mapple Jack Liqueur, Schoharie Shine
WHERE: 102 Bindery Lane, Charlotteville, Schoharie County
WHEN: Tastings, store open 12-6 p.m. Fri.-Sun. from Memorial Day weekend through Christmas.
MORE INFO: www.ky-mar.com, 290-0051, Facebook
A craft winery and the first legal distillery in Schoharie County since Prohibition, Kymar grows its own apples, grapes and some of its grains in Charlotteville, in the southwest corner of the county.
“We also bring in a tremendous amount of grains from local farmers, grown right here, right off Charlotte Valley Road,” says Kenneth Wortz, who runs the business with his wife, Lori Wortz, and partners Bill Martz and Christy Dahms.
Last year, Kymar moved to a bigger space, doubling its size, after they bought and renovated the former Storeyhouse Corporation building, a bindery for Scholastic Books that closed in 1999.
On Memorial Day weekend, Kymar will open a retail store that will sell not only their wine and spirits but other made-in-New York beverages and food products.
“Everything in our store is from Otsego, Schoharie or Delaware County,” Wortz says.
In addition to their Schoharie Mapple Jack Liqueur and Schoharie Shine, Kymar will be releasing a gluten-free vodka made with sorghum in late spring. In the fall, they plan to release their first whiskey.
Saratoga Distilleries Inc.
WHAT: Saratoga Single-Barrel Bourbon
WHERE: Made in Galway, but distillery is not open to the public
MORE INFO: www.saratogadistilleries.com, Facebook
In a little red barn on eight acres in Galway, two brothers are making 82-proof bourbon.
The licensed Saratoga County microdistillery produces small batches of handmade liquor that so far have been sold only through Facebook.
“We’ve dedicated ourselves to just doing one thing, and it’s making the world’s finest bourbon,” says Richard F. DeVall.
“No part of the process is commercialized. We get our grain from a local farmer. We make it from grain to glass.”
The water comes from a deep well on the property and the liquor is aged in new, five-gallon toasted American oak barrels.
“When you use a baby barrel, the aging process is accelerated,” DeVall says.
He and his brother, David F. DeVall, released their first bourbon this past Christmas.
“We had 25 bottles and we sold out. It was a hundred bucks a bottle. We are going to try and double that this year. We’re going to do a release around the Fourth of July and another release around Christmas.”
Lake George Distilling Company
WHAT: Bullhead Bourbon, Red Rock Rye, 32 Mile Moonshine, Indian Kettle Smoked Corn Whiskey, Apple Pie Moonshine and Adirondack WildFire Whiskey
WHERE: 11262 Route 149, Fort Ann
WHEN: Tasting and tours, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 12-5 p.m. Sun. Open later in the summer. Beginning in May, at Spa City Farmers Market in Saratoga Springs and Troy’s Riverfront Market.
MORE INFO: www.lakegeorgedistillingcompany.com, 639-1025, Facebook
Last summer, Lake George Distilling Company made some 40-proof lemonade. This year, as the weather warms up, a new alcoholic beverage will be brewing.
“We’re going to come out with a sweet tea this spring, to go along with the lemonade,” says John McDougall, co-owner with his wife, Robin.
Since they opened their doors in September 2013, Bullhead Bourbon and Apple Pie Moonshine have become their most popular products, McDougall says.
“We use 100 percent New York state grain, the corn is all non-GMO and the cider that we use for the Apple Pie Moonshine is from Malta Ridge. All the corn that we get comes from Washington County, in Easton. All the small grains that we use, that is the rye, the wheat and the malted barley, all come from out by Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes region.”
Lake George Distilling Company is the first legal distillery in Washington County since Prohibition.
“When you walk in the door, there’s a big picture window where you can look back into the distillery and see what’s going on. If we’re not super-busy, a tour is always available,” he says.
Saratoga Courage Distillery
WHAT: Pick Six Vodka, Devils Den Moonshine in two flavors, Apple Pie and Strawberry Jam
WHERE: Made in Greenfield Center, Saratoga County, but distillery is not open to public
MORE INFO: www.saratogacourage.com, Facebook
Saratoga Courage Distillery, a microdistillery on 11 acres in Greenfield Center, debuted its Pick Six Vodka only last year, but it’s already a winner.
Last month, Pick Six Vodka won two medals: a gold, in Colorado, at the Denver International Spirits Competition and a bronze, in Germany, at the Berlin International Spirits Competition.
Last fall, at the New York International Spirits Competition, the vodka took a silver medal and was named “Vodka of the Year.”
Saratoga Courage products are available at more than 200 retailers in the Capital Region.
“We’re in nearly every bar and restaurant in Saratoga,” says owner Serge Shishik, a pharmacist who once owned The Hub tavern in Saratoga Springs.
“We have a green philosophy at our distillery,” he says, explaining how they use gravity instead of pumps.
Shishik built the 1,700 square-foot building himself with the help of friends and family.
“We used all local materials,” he says.
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or [email protected]