U.S. Marshal destroying liquor before a crowd of interested citizens at the dump in Rouses Point, N.Y. From the book Rum Across the Border: The Prohibition Era in Northern New York, Allan S. Everest, 1978.
Happy National Bootleggers Day! Not that we want to celebrate an illegal occupation… The real significance of January 17th is that 100 years ago today, Prohibition began. The consumption of beverage alcohol was forbidden across the United States – no more “giggle water!” What a way to start a new decade! As a result, the 1920s saw the rise of the Speakeasies, organized crime and tainted spirits that were often deadly to consume. History has not been kind to Prohibition, and it is largely considered to be a failed social experiment.
Now, we find ourselves in a new ‘20s era, the 2020s. Craft distilleries, cideries and breweries are flourishing throughout the country. Consumers today have increasingly more choices when it comes to selecting spirits, beer and cider to enjoy. There is also an incredible amount of creativity generated from this surge in production, with new and exciting products continually released. MFDC is proud to have been the first craft distillery in Clinton County and be a part of this exciting movement. What a difference one hundred years makes.
I can’t believe it's Fall!
The property always looks so beautiful this time of year, with all of the different hues of reds and yellows catching the rays of the sun. Soon all of that color will be gone, in fact, many trees are already bare around the distillery, replaced with the grey of the winter season. Might be depressing – but it's not.
Snow is just around the corner and all of the fun activities that it allows will begin. Even more exciting for us is that this year we will have our tasting room open all winter. With new heaters installed, we will have a warm seat at the bar waiting for all of you.
Sarah is always busy dreaming up new, delicious seasonal cocktails featuring our spirits, and our four taps of local, craft beer will be flowing. In between producing our Whiskey, Brandy, Aquavit and Vodka, I will be working on our new gin recipe – getting that ready for production in 2020.
No winter blues at Murray’s Fools Distilling - come see us soon!
Sarah and I were recently horrified to see our pictures online with a caption that included “Master Distillers.” While we deeply appreciated the publicity, that title is one we both avoid like the plague. Why? Quite simply, we are not master distillers.
The term “master distiller” is thrown around very casually these days, and, therefore, has largely become meaningless. In reality, the term is fairly new in the distilling industry. A few decades ago it was hardly used. While today it’s a commonly used term, no one seems to be able to agree on what it actually means.
Here is my simple analysis. When used as an adjective, as in this case, “master” means highly skilled or proficient. Distilling is both an art and a science. As such it takes years of experience to become a highly skilled and proficient distiller.
Sarah and I are very good at what we do, but nowhere near ready to declare ourselves highly skilled, proficient distillers. With luck and hard work, that status may come after many, many years of distillery work; but after four years in the business – we aren’t even close to mastery.
To me, individuals, such as Jimmy Russell, Elmer Lee and Booker Noe, each with decades in the distilling business, are true master distillers. The rest of us strive to learn each day and stay on the path to excellence.
We were fortunate enough to meet Jimmy Russell and hear him speak about his journey and his product.
Jimmy has been in the business a couple of decades longer then I've been alive.
He is truly one of the last of his breed with a well earned title of Master Distiller.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of W.H.H. Murray’s Adventures in the Wilderness, or Camp Life in the Adirondacks.
The book was published in the spring of 1869 and launched the Murray Rush into the Adirondacks, giving rise to the monikers “Adirondack Murray” and “Murray’s Fools”.
The importance of Murray and his 1869 book has gained increasing attention in the past few years, with articles in The Smithsonian and Time Magazine, as well as inclusion in recent books about camping and outdoor life. Some have gone so far as to label Murray the “Father of Camping” or the Father of the Outdoor Movement in America.”
There are several events planned in 2019 to commemorate this milestone for Adventures in the Wilderness, and many of these involve Murray’s Fools Distilling. On January 30th, the Kelly Adirondack Center of Union College opened an exhibit on Murray and his book. This event included a tasting of our spirits as well as a presentation on Murray by yours truly. The exhibit at the Kelly Adirondack Center continues until mid-May of this year.
On April 7, 2019, the Adirondack Experience (formerly known as the Blue Mountain Lake Museum) will hold a special talk on Murray’s book, entitled “Fools Rushed In: W.H.H. Murray’s Adventures in the Wilderness 150 Years Later.” MFDC will be hosting a tasting in the museum’s visitor center that day, and more information about this great event can be found here.
Also, on August 15, 2019, I will be presenting a talk on Murray and Adventures in the Wilderness at the Adirondack History Museum in Elizabethtown, New York. That event kicks off with a 6:30 pm reception.
Stay tuned for more events. With all this talking, I’m sure going to be thirsty!
I know that 2019 is going to be a very exciting year at Murray’s Fools. How do I know this? I just do. It’s a gut feeling sort of thing. We have momentum and there is no stopping us!
There are a couple of tangible signs though. First, 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the publishing of Adventures in the Wilderness or Camp-Life in the Adirondacks, our namesake’s famous book that initiated tourism in the Adirondacks. There will be a commemorative Murray exhibit at Union College’s Kelly Adirondack Center beginning on January 31st. Adirondack Experience is also hosting a Murray themed event in April. MFDC will be participating in both of these events.
Second, our Osprey Aquavit is launching this month. I am very excited and proud to bring this creation of Sarah’s to market! Finally, we will be opening our tasting room in the spring with a new outside venue including a scenic fire-pit area, picnic tables and a band stage featuring live music.
We are going to be busy, but it’s going to be a blast!
I cannot believe its September! The kids are back in school and the temps are beginning to drop. But before the leaves turn, I wanted to check in and recap our summer activities. It was quite a summer.
Sarah has had a terrific summer at the Plattsburgh Farmer’s Market. The market continues to expand, and Sarah was there almost every Saturday offering tastings and selling our products. It was awesome to see second and third time customers throughout the season! We also had fun and success at the Plattsburgh Cocktail Walks, the Whiskey Run in Wilmington and the ADK Craft Beverage Festival at Elf’s Farm this summer.
When not at the farmer’s market, Sarah was busy marketing our product to restaurants and liquor stores. We are now in seven restaurants and two liquor stores. It is very exciting to see our creations being sold at retail and crafted into amazing cocktails!
While Sarah was out introducing our vodka, whiskey and brandy, I was back at the distillery most of the summer.
Along with mashing and distilling, I was able to construct a walk-in beer cooler, an outdoor stage for music and other entertainment, a firepit area, and work on our landscaping.
While it was sometimes frustrating to be constructing and not solely distilling, I think all of these new features are going to add to the fun our guests have at the distillery and, hopefully, keep them coming back for more.
So now we head into Fall 2018. Our tasting room is open, and we are waiting for your visit. We also may have a surprise or two up our sleeves before winter. Stay tuned.
Of course, the number one rule about enjoying spirits is that you should enjoy a spirit just the way you like it; whether neat, on the rocks, from a fine snifter, or out of a red plastic cup. That’s a freedom of choice we celebrate and encourage at Murray's Fools Distilling Co. – there is no right or wrong way. Well, maybe just one wrong way. I’m going to say there is one wrong way – shooting spirits – especially when “tasting” spirits.
It is impossible to “taste” a new spirit by taking the sample provided in the shot glass and throwing the liquid into the back of the throat in one quick move. In fact, that move is the antithesis of the “tasting” experience. By rapidly depositing the spirit in the back of the throat, one is bypassing the sensory organs designed to allow us to experience the spirit. About the only thing one obtains from shooting the spirit is a brief ethanol burn.
Spirit “tasting” is intended to be an opportunity to explore the taste, texture, aromatics and other sensory characteristics of the spirit. Taking the time to experience a spirit during a “tasting” allows you decide whether you like the spirit or not, and to further define the qualities of spirits overall that appeal to you, as well as those qualities that you dislike. Ideally, the “tasting” experience is a learning experience for all involved.
So, by all means drink spirits anyway you prefer. If you want to add ice, add ice. If you want to add water, add some water. Do not let anyone tell you that there is a wrong way to drink your favorite spirit. Follow Frank Sinatra’s advice and do it your way. However, when it comes to “tasting” spirits, please take time to experience the spirit as much as you can.
Don’t shoot the spirit. Savor the spirit.
I just finished reading Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. This book offers a great look at how top performers (both physically and intellectually) achieve the peak performances that define them as elite. One of the elements of the book I found most interesting was the role that rest played for all of the cited top performers. Not just any rest, but purposeful rest. These athletes, workers and intellectuals all viewed rest as a critical part of their training programs and routines. Rest was not just an inconvenience that was to be tolerated, but an essential component of success. As one who has often lamented having to sleep, and viewed rest as a waste of precious time, I found the role of rest presented in Peak Performance eye-opening to say the least.
Sarah and I are now charging forward with the final build-out of our tasting room and the necessary bathroom at the distillery. Of course, we are doing this while still mashing, distilling, marketing, selling and all of the good stuff that goes with operating a craft distillery. Our current goal is to have our tasting room open by June. My goal is to be done with the build out by Memorial Day weekend. In the spirit of Peak Performance, we have promised each other a weekend of rest and retreat!
I just realized that I have not written anything for this blog in several months. In fact, the last time I contributed here there was snow on the ground around the distillery. Shame on me for letting so much time go by! Now, August has arrived and our wet summer is continuing. It seems as though it rains every day. The good news is that our distillations are not weather dependent. We have been busy this summer making vodka, monitoring our aging apple brandy and, most recently, embarking on our quest to make an Adirondack Single Malt. That last project is very exciting, and we are lucky to have found a great source for 100% New York State malt.
The other project this summer has been the installation of a septic system – the last step that must be completed before we open our tasting room. This has been a slow process, but the system is now approved and construction should start this month. We are very excited to open the tasting room and welcome our friends and soon-to-be friends and fans into the distillery.
So stay tuned…I promise to be more diligent on updates and news.
Happy New Year!
Its 2017 and that means that Sarah and I have been working at this distillery thing for two years! Looking back to January 2015, when the two of us had just decided to take a distilling course in Seattle, we have come a long way. Between our build-out, getting licensed by TTB and NYS, and producing and then selling our first bottles of vodka, we have worked a bunch and learned even more. Mistakes have been plentiful, but Sarah and I have gotten pretty good at using those errors as learning moments and not letting them bog us down.
Looking forward, we believe we are in for a very exciting year at Murray’s Fools. We have apple brandy resting in beautiful new oak barrels from our friends at U.S. Barrel. We are in the middle of producing our third batch of our SnowShoe Vodka (batches 1-2 have sold out!). Our first whiskey mash will soon begin, and gin won’t be too far behind that!
Of course, production is only half the game. We plan to have our product(s) in liquor stores, local restaurants and bars no later than the springtime. In addition, we will be attending many farmer’s markets this year, bringing our spirits to sample and sell.
2017 is going to be exciting, so hold on to your hats and keep watching our progress!
Co-founder of Murray's Fools Distilling Co. | Altona. NY