Despite the explosion of craft distilling throughout the nation in recent years, the vast bulk of whiskies still are made in Kentucky and Tennessee and aged in barrels made from white oak harvested in Missouri's Ozark Mountains. That's what makes a fledgling operation in New York State's Adirondacks so interesting.
Talk about a true New York production. Keith Van Sise, founder and jack-of-all-trades at Gristmill Distilling in Keene, Essex County, and his team are using grains grown locally by Adirondack Organic Grains of Essex and apples grown locally by Rulf's Orchards in Peru with charred barrels made at U.S. Barrels in Wilmington from oak wood cut in the Catskills.
The products are branded with names very much enmeshed in Adirondack lore. Black Fly bourbon whiskey is named for the pesky seasonal insect that plagues residents and visitors alike; Rusty Piton moonshine is named for the climbing spike used in High Peaks adventures, and 1892 Forever Wild apple brandy is an homage to the date the state Legislature declared the Adirondacks Forest Preserve forever wild.
Gristmill Distilling's products are available at a variety of retail stores, restaurants and bars, and local farmers markets. The full list is available online.