Aug 08, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Central New York is well-known for its hops and grape industries, and the beer and wine that comes from it, but is not as well recognized for its production of spirits. The Empire State is known, however, for its corn; and every Saturday morning at the Cazenovia Farmers Market, patrons can sample a new, local product made from 100 percent New York corn — hand-crafted vodka, gin, white whiskey and bourbon from the Adirondack Distilling Company.
Spirits may be an odd-seeming item for inclusion in a farmers market, but one that has made good sense both for the market and for Adirondack.
“Many weeks, our booth at the Cazenovia Farmers Market oversells our booth at the Syracuse Indoor Market,” said Anita Elwell, Adirondack’s director of marketing, who often operates the Cazenovia booth. “It’s been a great reception; we’ve had a lot of fun and met a lot of great people.”
Adirondack Distilling Company has been making its products for only 18 months from its facility — a former bank building — in Utica, and already has won numerous awards for its gin, vodka and white whiskey. But the company’s reputation for smooth, quality liquor has preceded it to the point that when the Adirondack bourbon was released in mid-June, the ADC store had a line out the door and the entire first batch sold out in 24 hours.
“It speaks to the quality of our product,” said Jordan Karp, Adirondack’s master distiller.
“It’s easy to sell that first bottle, but it’s when people come back that makes the difference,” said Adirondack President Bruce Elwell.
So how did this business all come about?
“What happens when a doctor, a lawyer and a political consultant get together? Adirondack Distilling Company is born,” Elwell likes to say with a smile.
Elwell, Karp and Steve Cox discovered they had a mutual love for spirits, especially vodka, and a common vision to create a distilling business that used local ingredients, was gluten free and offered a different flavor profile than what was already on the market.
“We took an idea, put together a business plan, went to the bank, the bank said yes and we said, ‘What the hell!” Elwell said.
The partners purchased an old bank building at 601 Varick St. in Utica in 2011 and by 2012, after a complete interior redesign, Adirondack Distilling Company was ready.
“Basically, we had to take a bank and make it into a manufacturing place — it was quite an adventure,” Elwell said.
Adirondack’s entire production process starts and finishes inside their Utica distillery, where they currently produce approximately 3,000 bottles per month, Karp said.
The bags of corn are stored in the old bank vault on the building’s first floor, and all the mashing, fermenting and distilling work is also done on the main floor. The bottling and storage areas — every bottle is hand-corked and hand-cased — are in the basement.
“It’s a batch distilling process; it’s all hand-made batch-by-batch,” Karp said. “It’s a painstakingly slow, arduous process.”
One of the most unique work methods at Adirondack is that Karp chill filters all the vodka through Herkimer diamonds for six hours, “which makes it even smoother,” he said.
Adirondack released its inaugural product, ADK Vodka, in November 2012, and followed that with ADK gin in August 2013, then 1,000 Stills White Whiskey in March 2014 and 601 Bourbon in June 2014.
The public — and expert — reaction was immediate, and extremely positive.
By October 2013, ADK Vodka had won five awards in four different national competitions, and in February 2014 won a silver medal at the World Vodka Awards in London. And then last week, Adirondack’s 1,000 Stills White Whiskey took a silver medal at the 2014 World Spirits Competition in San Francisco and a gold medal at the 2014 Spirits International Prestige awards.
Adirondack Distilling Company’s products already are carried in liquor stores and restaurants across New York state, as well as in California, Connecticut and New Jersey.
Locally, Adirondack Distilling Company also has been a staple participant in this year’s Cazenovia Farmers market, where they set up their tent on the opening weekend on May 10 and have been there every Saturday since.
“When Adirondack reached out about participating in our market I was thrilled. I was familiar with their product and knew it would be a great match,” said Aileen Randolph, director of the Cazenovia Farmers Market. “The Cazenovia shopper appreciates quality products and values local ingredients, that’s why Adirondack is doing so well. They offer great, local goods.”
In addition to the farmers market, Adirondack products can be found at McKinnon Liquors in Cazenovia, and the Colgate Inn and Hamilton Inn in Hamilton.
For more information about Adirondack Distilling Company, visit their website at adirondackdistilling.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.