Thursday, December 23, 2010

The new "moonshine"

The headline in the New York Times a few days ago was, "Just Don't Call it Moonshine," and the dateline was Columbia County, New York, population 62,217 (making it micropolitan). One of the featured distillers is Derek Grout, who describes his return to his family's farm, after college at Cornell and nearly a decade as a graphic designer in Boston:

His return runs a similar arc to that of many Northeast distillers. “This is my way to maximize my family’s agricultural heritage,” he said. “From the farmer’s perspective, the only way to increase the value of an apple is to make it into spirit and put that in oak.”

Stills once thrived in the Northeast, with rum in colonial Massachusetts, applejack that made Jersey Lightning an everyday term and Monongahela ryes from Pennsylvania and Delaware that were a staple before bourbon existed. Now distilling is proliferating again, not just with farmers like Mr. Grout adding value to their crops, but with disgruntled professionals abandoning desk duty to make gin and whiskey, craft brewers and small winemakers branching out into spirits, and young urbanites setting up stills the way their peers have set up apiaries and charcuteries.

Grout's Harvest Distillers is based in Valatie, New York, population 1,887.

I can see why the headline for the story was as it was--distancing this chic, upscale phenomenon from the other hard liquor--often illicit--associated with rural places.

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