Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Still The One Distilling - The One You Should Be Looking For! (NY)

 
So I finally caught up with Ed and Laura Tiedge at the Hudson Berkshire Wine & Food Festival 2014 back on Memorial Day weekend. I have been wanting to taste their spirits for some time, and I have not been able to get in front of them. The weekend gave me the opportunity...and what an opportunity! And I realized after talking with them, and reading about them, that I have as much affinity for them as I do their line of products!

Still the One Distillery is located along the banks of the Byram River in Port Chester, NY. This is the first reason I have an affinity for them. I have fond memories of Portchester, which lies in the part of Westchester County that abuts Connecticut. My parents lived in Greenwich and now back country Stamford. I went to school at Stamford UConn of six months, and went to school with Moby and then used to go to The Beat (a club) to hear him spin records. He was awesome even back then. There was also a home center there wherein I spent a lot of time. Ed and Laura's distillery is situated in a manufacturing district, surrounded by welders, metal fabricators and commercial fishing vessels. 

Master Distiller, Ed Tiedge, is a former officer of Marines and Wall Street bond trader who decided to pursue his passion for unique and excellent spirits. According to their website, "After leaving Corporate America, Ed began his journey into crafting spirits by studying distillation and vinification (wine making) techniques in California and working at a small winery and distillery in Cognac, France. He then began researching the production of mead, a honey wine that has been made since ancient times. Thinking back on his experience in distilling wine into brandy, Ed began to formulate a process to distill honey wine into spirits. Through much research and hard work, he found the right varietal honey and yeast combinations and the precise distillation technique to create an incredible honey based vodka we call Comb. Nowadays, Ed works hands-on every day with his crew to make world class spirits at StilltheOne Distillery - the name of which is inspired by his wife and Chief Tasting Officer Laura, who, after all these years, is Still the One."

And btw, Still the One was a song that came out when I was in 7th Grade in Fairfield, Connecticut. It was from Orleans' album Waking the Dream. Orleans was a soft rock group from the Hudson Valley! Who knows, I could be wrong. It could be off the Shania Twain song You're still the One, which is a completely different song. But when I here the Orleans song I think of Connecticut and Portchester.
 
 
 
I reviewed Comb Vodka back about a year and a half ago. This stuff has been a hit since they released it! Comb Vodka is an artisan spirit distilled from honey. Most vodka is made from corn, wheat or potatoes. The owners believe that the vodka they produce is only as good as what goes into it, so they start their process by making a wonderfully light and dry honey wine.

Why do they use honey? Honey is expensive, it’s hard to work with and fermenting it can be difficult. So, why do they use it? Honey, like different grapes for wine, can provide a number of varietal options. Their honey is made from orange blossoms which contributes its unique character and allows them to create a perfectly balanced spirit.

  Comb has hints of orange as promised. It's got a big smooth round flavor. Really great mouth feel. One can absolutely see numerous vodka drinks made with his wonderful distillate. Smooth. Great on ice, or as a vodka martini. A very, very nice drink.
 
 
I’ve been learning a lot about gin lately from a friend, Matt Teacher, who has a new book coming out on the cutting edge of gin. Gin has gone from a cheap drink adulterated with sugar to make it palatable, to a refined product that became a favorite of officers of the Royal Navy. Essentially, gin is the original flavored vodka.
While most gins are made with grain-based alcohol, Still the One is the only gin distilled from honey, giving Comb 9 a unique smoothness.  They start with the essence of the honey spirit used in their vodka, and redistill it in small batches with 9 different botanicals, including juniper berries, lavender, fresh citrus, galangal and other selected botanicals.
A wonderful gin. Perfect for G&Ts this time of year, or for an elegant martini!! Fabulous!

 
 

In February 2011 Ed received a call from the Wounded Warrior Project asking if he could donate a few bottles of spirits for an auction at an upcoming benefit. He immediately said yes, but when he got off the phone he wanted to do better than just drop off a few bottles. Ed formulated a new gin; made in a single batch of 12 bottles, with handmade labels and a custom wood case. As a nod to his service in the United States Marines, he called it Jarhead Gin. This is yet another reason to like Ed!
A year went by and he decided the gin was too good to leave on the shelf and made a second batch. Unlike Comb, Jarhead is a blend of organic New York State wheat and honey. Jarhead Gin has lively notes of juniper, coriander, fresh citrus, ginger and a couple of secret botanicals as promised. Each bottle is hand numbered with the batch and bottle number.
Jarhead is uniquely different from Comb, but just as wonderful. Perfect for Memorial Day, 4th of July, or Veterans Day, or any time you want a gin based cocktail. And a great reminder of debt we owe to those who have served our country.
 
 
The Byram River runs past Ed and Laura’s distillery through Port Chester, NY and flows eventually into the Long Island sound. In the 1800s Port Chester was an important stop for transatlantic steamships. To this day you can still find commercial fishing boats and marinas with pleasure craft docked along its banks. One day, a commercial fishing boat captain who docks nearby came in to the distillery for a chat with Ed. The captain asked where was the rum? In a few moments, Byram River Rum was born.
Ed went straight to work attempting a great many variations with cane sugar and molasses trying to come up with a cane juice pleasing to the nose and palate. The next step was selecting a yeast to make “cane wine” which would then be distilled into rum. After dozens of trials they perfected a cane juice with floral notes and sweet molasses as a back bone.  The result, an impressive rum with all the noe reminiscent of a week spent in the Caribbean. Where’s a lounge chair and a cabana boy or girl when you need them? BTW, the mermaid on their label is a replica of a tattoo on Ed’s leg! You’ll be begging for a rum and orange juice, a pina colada, or some other rum drink, one you just smell this stuff. Very, very nice!
 
 
Ed and Laura are planning a series of whiskeys. Westchester Wheat Whiskey was the first. And it was based upon locally sourced ingredients. Westchester Wheat Whiskey is made from 100% organic wheat grown in New York State. In the classic style, it was aged in charred new American oak barrels which add nuance and complexity. This is a nice, light, smooth whiskey, with lovely cereal notes, a hint of wood. Lovely.


OK, now for the granddaddy of ‘em all! I have an unabashed love for this whiskey. No, full disclosure, I am a bourbon guy. I love bourbon I hate the peaty-ness of single malts, etc. I like the smoky, slightly sweet bourbons with lots of character – Whistle Pig, Hillrock Estate, Rebellion, etc. But this is whiskey. This is a man’s drink for sure. And I loved it!
Ed approached Captain Lawrence’s owner, Scott Vacarro. Ed wanted to make a whiskey from one of Scott’s beers. In December of 2013, Vaccaro shipped him thousands of gallons of his Freshchester Pale Ale. Ed distilled it and 287 Single Malt Whiskey was born. The name comes from the Westchester highway (that I myself have driven maybe a couple thousand times) that connects StilltheOne Distillery and the Captain Lawrence Brewery.

 
The idea was that Ed wanted to capture the nuance of the malted barley. He then aged it in new oak barrels to give it more depth and flavor as all good whiskey should be. The first batch of 287 Single Malt Whiskey is in limited production, with only the First Taste edition bottles released after a 10 month aging time. Each bottle is filled and labeled by hand, with our master distiller’s signature on every single one. I bought myself one of these bad boys.
Firstly, I love that this is a collaboration effort   here in the valley. There needs to be more of this kind of conversation going on! Secondly, this whiskey was amazing. Yes, it is completely dry And I like a slightly sweeter brown spirit generally, but this was smooooth. I was absolutely shocked. Great nose. Cereal. Vanilla. There were hints of soft fruit, spice, nuts, and maybe a sherry-like quality to it? I really liked it. Who knows, maybe Ed is starting me down the road to a greater appreciation of whiskey. Regardless, this was outstanding!!!



Still the One is the one you should be looking for!!!
 
My article on Comb Vodka from 2013: