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Bye Bye Booze Bottles

July 26, 2013

The goodbye tour continues. I’ve been trying to stop at all of my favorite places, and try some new ones before I leave.

Yesterday I said goodbye to Sweet Sue at her shop, and shook hands with Vic as he was working with his crew on The Grocery. I had a last batch of zippy sauce from Famous Lunch and made a point to re-taste the croissant at the Placid Baker. There were the quesadillas from Troy’s quesadillery. And of course I had to take the kids to Bella Napoli for a Boston cream donut and a fudge fancy.

By the way, why didn’t anyone tell me they have cold brewed iced coffee at Placid Baker? Come on people! This thing works both ways.

Earlier this week I took a quick trip to the Berkshires. There I discovered a place that’s doing an amazing 12 hour drip cold brew iced coffee extraction. It’s mesmerizing to watch that contraption work. And it was without a doubt the most expensive iced coffee of my life. But since I was driving past Valatie, I took a few minutes to drop in on my friends at Harvest Spirits. It wasn’t just a social call. I was there to take care of two important pieces of business.

For starters, I had to return some of their bottles.

I love that they encourage in person bottle return. It’s a great excuse to get back to the distillery and see what’s going on. And the bottles that I had were significant ones too. They were from the first batches of Peach Jack and Rare Pear. Plus I finally drained the last of Core Vodka’s famous Batch 21.

It felt good to escort these bottles back to their home.

But I also needed to talk with Derek. Mostly because someone–and I forget who–mentioned something about Harvest Spirits working on a whiskey, and that was completely off my radar. So I was compelled to get to the bottom of what’s brewing out at the distillery.

There’s an advantage to being a farm distillery that has a successful line of vodka made from apples. It gives you a certain degree of flexibility to experiment with things, and the time to age them in barrels.

Speaking of barrels, I remember when there was just one rack of barrels by the door, and that was big news. Now there are barrels everywhere. And a full fifteen of them are loaded up with whiskey. But instead of trying to make the great American whiskey, Harvest Spirits is taking its cues from Scotland.

Working with the Adirondack Brewery, the distillery is getting a fermented mash bill brew made primarily from two-row malted barley. At this point the distillate is in a variety of used barrels and has been aging for just a few months. They are expecting to draw the first bottles after it’s aged for two years. But some may age longer. It’s hard to say at this point in the process. All I know is that this gives me yet something else to look forward to after I return to the Capital Region.

In New Jersey the craft spirits bug hasn’t quite taken off the same way. As far as I can tell there is Jersey Artisan Distilling in Fairfield and Cooper River Distillers in Camden. I hope to get to meet the people behind them after the relocation.

For the last several months I’ve been meaning to get back to the Albany Distilling Co too, just to check in on the guys there. I thought they did a great job on their rum, and enjoyed the heck out of it. And after all of this time I’ve only just recently had the chance to sit down with a bottle of the unaged Coal Yard and a bottle of the aged Ironweed made from the same bourbon mash.

Let me tell you, that’s a fun, if challenging, tasting. I know that I’m probably the outlier in this regard, but I really do prefer their unaged product. They do a really great job at distilling a clean product that reveals all the fruity, grassy and earthy elements of the grains. It’s special stuff on its own. Without having the two side by side, one might not realize those flavors lurk beneath the spicy charred new oak of the aged version.

But it’s totally something you should try at home.

Harvest Spirits isn’t bottling any unaged whiskey. They are focused on the aged product. And I think if you can afford to do that, it’s a great plan. But I’m also glad that Albany Distilling Co. chose a different path.

We’re really lucky in this neck of the woods to have such a vibrant community of craft distillers. And after Derek let me have a taste of his private stash of Hillrock Estate Distillery, I’m going to have to give them a visit when I return too. That was some exquisite whiskey, and I need to know how they do it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jamie permalink
    July 26, 2013 10:34 am

    How do you not weigh 500lbs?! :)

  2. Jon E permalink
    July 26, 2013 3:07 pm

    I have an early bottle of Rare Pear (may be first batch, I’ll have to look). I have not cracked it open yet. Any advantage to letting this age in the bottle?

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