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First CNY bourbon product of state's craft distillery initiatives

The bourbon being produced at a Utica distillery is being described as the first legal bourbon produced in central New York. It's proof that the craft liquor industry is growing in New York state.

The Adirondack Distilling Company started out by crafting vodka. Then they moved to gin and, most recently, white whiskey. Now, master distiller Jordan Karp says the company is moving on to that quintessential American drink.

"Bourbon is an American spirit made with at least 51 percent corn, and stored and aged in a charred, new, oak American barrel,” Karp explained.

The company will jump into the business of selling bottles of 601 bourbon later this month. The amber spirit is handcrafted in a former bank by four employees that do everything from pouring and distilling to tasting the product, which is aged in tiny barrels in the basement.

Karp admits somebody may have made some bourbon in a homemade still at one point in time when the Adirondacks was known as the land of 1,000 stills during prohibition.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO

“There was a lot of moonshining going on," Karp said. "The first legal bourbon in central New York, because we’re licensed and pay taxes on the product."

Craft distilleries like this are the backbone of a booming industry in New York state. According to recent statistics from the governor’s office, the number of farm distilleries in the state has jumped 320 percent, from 10 in early 2011, to 42 today.
Karp says distilleries are a few decades behind the craft brewery movement.
"Thirty years ago, mostly what you found in America were pilsner beers," Karp said. "And then you look at Sam Adams and Dogfish Head, and they do some innovative stuff. We’re sort of 15 years behind that, where people are saying, oh my gosh, I didn’t realize vodka didn’t have to taste terrible."

Much of that growth has been in the shadow of several state initiatives, like new rules that let farm-based distilleries offer tastings at places like farmers markets.

Karp says he's happy to give the state a plug.
"New York state has been phenomenal in so many respects in helping us market and finding markets, and being able to sell at farmers markets, which is a huge change,” Karp said.

He says his distillery has more plans for using the state’s pro-farm-to-table policies.

"We’re partnering with Good Nature Brewing in Hamilton, New York," Karp said. "And we’re going to take their unfermented beer, their wort from barley, and we’re taking that and going to make a single malt whiskey. So it’s the first time that a farm brewery and a farm distillery in New York have teamed up to make a single malt whiskey."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.