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The Spirit of Utica

August 14, 2015

Craft spirits are special. It’s not always true to say that these small batch local products are better than their conventional counterparts. In some cases, however, it’s absolutely true, like with Harvest Spirits Cornelius Applejack. That local product totally blows away Laird’s Applejack, which has been the standard bearer for the category,

Small local distillers can also do things their own way. It’s been a long time since I had the Albany Distilling Company’s unaged whiskeys, but I loved them, in part because they were like an eau de vie of grain. Sure, these spirits might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed the heck out of them.

These distilleries have been rising up all over the place. Some of the growth has been organic. One of the junior distillers from Harvest Spirits left to open up Apple Country Spirits outside of Rochester. And recently one of the founders of Albany Distilling Company left that enterprise to begin a new venture up the road at Yankee Distillers.

I thought I was keeping pretty good tabs on distilleries around the region That is, until this week, when I just happened to stumble upon the distillery that’s based in Utica.

Adirondack Distilling Company was totally off my radar.

The only reason I found out about this three year old distillery was because of the New York State Food Festival at Empire State Plaza this past week. They had a table set up in the Taste NY booth, and I got to spend some time with their bottles and learn a bit about their story.

It’s all corn. They make corn vodka, corn gin, unaged corn whiskey, and an aged corn bourbon. You would be hard pressed to find anyone else doing something like this. And it’s based on the head distiller’s confidence in his ability to work well with corn.

That makes sense.

The only other white corn whiskey I’ve had was the Glen Thunder from Finger Lakes Distilling, so that’s not a unique product per se. But making an aged bourbon out of 100% corn is certainly interesting.

Personally, I like tasting the work that small passionate enthusiasts make. I’m not always going to love it, but if I’m lucky, I’ll gain an appreciation for some other ways of looking at a category. Take, for example, the distillery’s ADK Gin. I prefer the big, rich, round mouthfeel and aggressive juniper of the classic Tanqueray. However, this local bottling includes alpine bilberries from the Adirondack region in its botanical blend, and that’s quite cool. The end result is more spicy and similar in construction to something like the Bluecoat gin from Philadelphia.

This distillery’s wares may make an appearance around the Fussy household come Passover, when we stop drinking whiskey made from prohibited grains. Corn, as it turns out, is totally fine.

Anyway, keep an eye out for these, as you may want to try a sample before you dive into any bottle. And now I’ll be keeping an eye out in the direction of Utica to see if anything new is coming out of the distillery.

Have a great weekend. If you’ve been waiting for the last minute to see how the weather is going to shake out for Saturday’s Tour de Italian Deli, that would be now. This looks like it will be the smallest tour to date, and that’s fine. But the more the merrier. Don’t be shy. And don’t worry about the team thing either. We’ll figure it all out on Saturday morning. Trust me. I’m looking forward to the experience, however it plays out.

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