Spirits take Root in Finger Lakes Micro-Distilleries

Jun 03, 2009

In the mid-1990s, two Finger Lakes wineries took possession of identical, onion-shaped copper stills delivered from Europe. Using them, Swedish Hill and Knapp turned small amounts of their primary product, wine, into distilled spirits or hard liquor – in this case, brandy. Spirits became a small niche for these boutique farm wineries.

Those two wineries are still distilling, but suddenly they have a lot of company.

Within the last two years, the number of licensed distilleries in New York state has nearly doubled, to 25. Seven are now operating in the Finger Lakes region between Syracuse and Rochester.

Two more state distilling licenses are pending, including one for Beak & Skiff Apple Farms of LaFayette, which plans to make vodka from apples.

“Distilling really is the next big thing around here,” says Bill Martin, who makes wines and distills spirits at his family’s business, Montezuma Winery/Hidden Marsh Distillery in Seneca Falls. “Spirits are the next big artisanal farm product.”

The mini-boom was spurred by changes in state law two years ago that allowed small distillers to make and sell their products on the same site (much as the wineries do), and which also offered benefits like lower fees to distillers who use New York-grown source products.

Read the full article at Syracuse.com HERE.