Aquavit, an unusual choice? Too risky a spirit for a craft distiller?
Not really… Make what you love and you will succeed!
While recently traveling and visiting Scandinavian countries, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, not only did I absolutely fall in love with the cities, the people and the food, but also the spirit of their spirits!
I was first introduced to Aquavit in Norway and instantly fell in love! Murray’s Fools Distilling Co. had only developed one product at the time and it was still going to be three products and two years later until I was finally able to create my very own spirit, Osprey Aquavit.
My recipe was definitely not a random spontaneous combination, I did some deep research on traditional and modern recipes and the entire production processes.
I created three individual ‘recipes’ and using my petite copper pot still, I began my experiments! So much fun! They were all very different, with distinct flavors; however all used the traditional caraway and dill base. I was very happy with the results!
To select a final recipe, I brought together a discreet focus group of bartenders, gourmet chefs, Scandinavians, foodies and a couple that had never even tried Aquavit! So much fun! We ate Scandinavian foods, shared stories, and sampled recipes. It was still serious business however, everyone recorded their tasting notes and scores without interacting with each other and the result…all but one person voted for the same recipe! They all also provided some much needed and valued feedback on how they might like to see the spirit enhanced.
Now that I had my recipe I was ready to roll in the big mama stills!
As a traditional celebratory drink, this spirit needed the perfect name. We were inspired by Terrace Lodge, a camp W.H.H. Murray had owned on Osprey Island in Raquette Lake, NY. A camp where, on a regular basis, Murray celebrated the joys of the natural world with friends and family. And so it was, our new spirit was labeled Osprey Aquavit.
This spirit is typically served on special occasions, chilled in very small Aquavit glass, however I have found it makes an amazing Danish Mary (or Danish Murray we like to call it) and a fabulous Negroni!
It is a wonderful feeling to create something you love and enjoy and have the opportunity share it with those who also appreciate fine spirits. I am so proud to see this product on liquor store shelves and hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ of those who try it.
Not only is Murray’s Fools Distilling Co. a beautiful picturesque place to work, it is also located on a historically significant property. Purdy’s Mills was once a booming small hamlet that included Purdy’s saw mill, a boarding house, a box factory and a general store. The owner of the mill, Fred Purdy’s homestead, Clover Hill Farm, was adjacent to the mill and is still part of the property today. The homestead has been maintained and been kept as historically accurate as modern day will allow. Now, where in the 1800s a successful mill was once thriving, a different industry has moved in!
Our fundraising campaign has ended and, even though we didn’t quite meet our goal and the costs were almost double our estimates (we are not contractors), we are moving upward and onward. We ended up needing a larger septic system than anticipated and our well dug deeper then we guessed, but it is all AWESOME! And we are making progress and moving persistently forward. It is all good news for us!
Thank you for all the support, emotional and financial, from all our friends and family! Through you we were able to raise $8,300.00!
Special thanks to these people! You are so generous to us with your support and beliefs in who we are and what we are capable of!
We have added in our own personal savings and what we have made in sales over the five months to bring it up to cover the $17,900.00 costs of the septic, the well digging and installation, hot water heater and plumbing supplies (not including bathroom).
We currently have under control:
Even though we are so close… we cannot say for sure when we will be back in production and can’t make any promises on whether we will still be able to open the tasting room in the spring. We’re working as much as we are able to and as fast as we can, even in this arctic -14° weather!
Still to go – Next steps:
Hope to see you in the Spring!! CHEERS!
In March 2015, Randall and I decided to stop just dipping our toes in the entrepreneurial water and took the dive into the deep end and started our adventure into the business of craft distilling.
After making the commitment to become distillers, the fun began! From determining our brand identity to re-purposing an entire workshop, the work has been rewarding and interesting.
One year later, at the very end of March 2016, we had our walls built, equipment in place and federal and state licenses in hand! We are ready to start distilling!
This video is of our first year of business which included construction, license applications, equipment purchases and over 300 hours of mostly weekend team work. All of this wild ride wrapped up into 3 mins. and 15 secs.!
We learned a lot of very cool things from our craft distillation class instructor, Master Distiller Rusty Figgins, but one of the intriguing things of note was that distillery stills are traditionally christened with feminine names.
We have had a lot of serious support from both of our mothers. It didn’t take a lot of thinking to decide to name our stills after them. We are both so thankful for this support and all the encouragement they have given us to get us started!
These two women have been tremendously supportive throughout the entire process (even though I think deep down they think we’re totally nuts to be doing this) and because of this we have decided to christen our stills ‘Lois Ann’ in deep admiration of Randall’s mother and ‘Barbara Ann’ in profound appreciation of Sarah’s mum.
As our dream begins to look more like a distillery and less like a construction zone, I start to envision ourselves witnessing our product flow from the still… and it truly is such a ‘dream come true’ that it’s almost as if we are onlookers in our story. Walking into the distillery on the weekends is very much like walking into another person’s shoes and sometimes seems so far away from our weekday lives. This feeling gave us the inspiration to create our own unique distiller personas.
I wanted to connect to a W.H.H. Murray fictional character; however it is a known fact that Murray did not include prominent female personalities in his books. In fact at a luncheon with several literary men, including Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson, there was discussion about feminine characters with Mr. Emerson strongly believing that in order for a story to make the average reader laugh and cry both, it couldn’t be written without a woman appearing in it. It appears Murray and his publisher took this as a challenge, intent to prove him to be wrong.
Because of this lack of feminine characters, I chose to combine two wonderful and totally opposite ‘odd-couple’ male characters, Parson Whitney and Deacon Tubman, from the short story “How Deacon Tubman and Parson Whitney Kept New Year’s” (1888).
Parson Whitney is described as having a ‘frozen’ book-worm personality and Deacon Tubman is a jolly happy man. The Deacon goes to visit the Parson, enticing him away from his anti-social books. The two sixty year old men spend New Year’s Day visiting with the young people of the town.
They realize that it is important to spend time pursuing adventure and enjoying more of the world around them. Experiencing and exploring the outdoors leaves them feeling youthful and invigorated.
The two got so carried away in the excitement of the events of the day, they forgot themselves and entered wildly into the youthfulness of the adventures.
When I feel I am getting too engrossed in the seriousness of responsibility, I remember these two and the New Year’s Day that they let all their hesitations cut loose and follow their youthful instincts.
Whitney and Tubman remind me to relish the sweetness of life.
The story of Murray's Fools Distilling Co. (MFD Co.) is based on our co-founder, Randall Beach’s, great-great-grandfather W.H.H. Murray (Adirondack Murray), and his advocacy of the Adirondacks and outdoor life. Considered by many to be the “Father of the Outdoor Movement,” Murray wrote and published Adventures in the Wilderness in 1869. This book brought huge, adventure seeking crowds into the Adirondacks, creating what the media of the time dubbed 'The Murray Rush'. So many people arrived after the book was published that there weren't enough accommodations, guides, etc.; hence these crowds were called 'Murray's Fools'. Later, these ‘Murray's Fools’ built hundreds of 'Great Camps', hotels, vacation homes and clubs in the Adirondacks, making the Adirondack Mountains the destination place of the privileged, as well as the growing urban class.
Murray believed in protecting and conserving the Adirondacks, and often spoke about the “Ownership of the Adirondacks.” He believed no one state or individual owned the wilderness, but rather that it existed in trust. Murray said the Adirondacks stood for forces that affect the mind, body and spirit of men to such a degree and so salutarily that they are lifted above monetary classment.
Murray's belief was that to be a full person one must combine intimate knowledge of nature with a civilized education. It was Murray who brought laughter to the Adirondack scene, and it was the kind of laughter which he brought that filled (and still fills) his book with vitality. Murray's laugh is that of the involved participant, and its outcome is a distillation of a sense of warm humility in the face of nature.
Murray’s Fools Distillery Co. seeks to create and provide fine spirits to those who, just as the original Murray’s Fools, have independent streaks, courage, adventurous souls and live for nature’s quiet moments.
“I wish that you may find, in excursions which you may make into the wilderness, the health and happiness which have, upon its waters and upon its softly murmuring pines, come to me.” - W.H.H. Murray
Co-founder of Murray's Fools Distilling Co. | Altona, NY