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The Best New York State Distilleries

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A destination for drinks connoisseurs, a boom in boutique New York State distilleries has seen ever-increasing numbers of exciting new spirits emerge, from rye whiskey to classic unaged corn whiskey, commonly known as moonshine.

The word moonshine holds intrigue enough, referring to that distilled, high proof product whose name references smugglers of Appalachia and the Southern United States during Prohibition. But as it turns out, you can’t keep a good thing bottled up. Today in New York State, the craft spirit business is booming. Here’s a look at a few of our favourite New York State distilleries to check out on your next trip.


Finger Lakes Distilling

Finger Lakes Distilling‘s Mckenzie Rye Whiskey has been described as capturing “the warm woodsy-ness of a campfire in the Finger Lakes region.” Which is just about right for a distillery smack in the middle of wine country. Here, on Seneca Lake, access to the harvest of local farms and wineries keeps Finger Lakes Distilling well stocked with fresh, local materials for its handcrafted products. Creating its spirits using old fashioned yet sustainable methods – two copper stills and locally grown New York State grain – the result is a smooth, luxuriant experience in sipping, all made with local ingredients such as barley, rye, wheat, spelt, corn, grapes, apples, cherries, berries and maple syrup. Products include White Pike Whiskey, made from corn, spelt and malted wheat; Glen Thunder, named for nearby Watkins Glen raceway; and Catskill Provision New York Honey, a rye and honey concoction with “notes of toffee, vanilla and smoky spice.”

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Clayton Distillery

Formerly a dairy farm, this third-generation family farm in Cape Vincent in the Thousand Islands region is the first micro distillery in Northern New York State. Using locally grown grains and fruits, Clayton Distillery produces such delights as mixed berry vodka, bourbon, maple whiskey, cherry whiskey and three flavours of moonshine or unaged corn whiskey. Look for unique flavours including the farm’s Lemonade Shine 101, made with all natural homemade lemonade; Cherry Shine, made with juice from New York state cherries; and Apple Pie Shine, made with New York state apple cider.


Adirondack Distilling Company

Situated in a historic building in Utica, N.Y., Adirondack Distilling Company produces its award-winning spirits using New York State corn, oak barrel aging and water from the Adirondack Mountains. The distillery’s 601 Bourbon is described as having notes of vanilla, raisin and a peppery finish – “it’s whiskey smooth, but without the burn.” Adirondack’s 1,000 Stills White Whiskey is the winner of Double Gold at the 2014 New York Wine and Spirits Society Competition and a Gold Medal winner at the 2014 SIP International Spirits Competition.


Myer Farm Distillers

Proudly touting its “field to flask” approach, Myer Farm Distillers remains one of the oldest operating organic farms producing handcrafted spirits in the Northeastern United States. Located near the Cayuga Wine Trail, the farm’s distillery is housed in a building reminiscent of an old distillery in Scotland. Myer Farm uses a 650-litre copper still and 100 per cent organic grain to produce its White Dog Corn Whiskey (86 proof, tasting of “hot buttered popcorn, cornbread, and a hint of vanilla”) and White Dog Wheat Spirits (88 proof, with taste of “cocoa, caramel, and a hint of apricot”).

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Catskill Distilling Company

With names like “Most Righteous Bourbon” and the award-winning “Defiant Rye,” Catskill Distilling Company handcrafts their fine spirits using water from the Catskill Mountains and New York State-grown grain and fruits. You can sip the distillery’s “Fearless White Whiskey” or “Wicked White” in the art deco bar – an actual piece salvaged from the 1939 World’s Fair. The Dancing Cat Saloon offers the distillery’s craft products and fine dining, while distillery tours, live performances and music at the Dancing Cat and local artisans at the nearby Stray Cat Art Gallery add local flavour. An interesting aside: the distillery is located just across the street from the site of the historic Woodstock music festival in Bethel, New York.


Hillrock Estate Distillery

Hillrock Estate Distillery is housed in a 200-year-old Georgian residence originally built by a grain merchant and Revolutionary War captain. If that doesn’t impress you, Hillrock possesses heirloom grains, expansive views of the Berkshire Mountains and barley fields in the Hudson Valley Highlands. The distillery’s whiskeys have all the flavour and nuances of the surrounding land, with handcrafted products made with grains grown on its very grounds. Look for Hillrock’s Solera Aged Bourbon – bourbon aged by a process using barrels that are never fully emptied (as with Spanish Sherry), producing a full-bodied bourbon with a caramel-ly flavour.


Tuthilltown Spirits

Tuthilltown was the first of the New York State distilleries to produce its bourbon whiskey after the Prohibition. Suitably situated in a historic mill in the Hudson Valley, Tuthilltown Spirits handcrafts its products, like Baby Bourbon, Manhattan Rye and New York Corn Whiskey, from raw grain and fruit. You might also want to check out their Half Moon Orchard Gin, a 20 per cent apple and 80 per cent wheat concoction made with the Tuthilltown’s Cassis Liqueur and bitters.

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Cooperstown Distillery

Set in the heart of the historic village of Cooperstown, (home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame), Cooperstown Distillery is a small batch distillery that offers tours and tastings in its full service tasting room and generous bar area. As its hometown suggests, look for products with a baseball swing, including Beanball Bourbon – a six-year barrel aged, charcoal filtered spirit that’s name comes from the baseball pitch thrown at a batter’s head. It’s a whopping 100 proof – but you probably already guessed that.


Written by M.J. Kravec


Image credits: 

Vintage whiskey barrels © iStock: MartinM303

Finger Lakes Distilling building © Finger Lakes Distilling

Finger Lakes products © Finger Lakes Distilling

Tuthilltown Spirits © Tuthilltown Spirits

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