By Alicia Dziak
Soon you won’t have to travel to the city to check out a distillery. The Ellicottville Distillery is opening later this month, and will combine local flavor with unique new products for your enjoyment (if you’re 21 and over)!
The Elicottville Distillery is a joint endeavor between three partners: Bryan Scharf, who will be the distillery manager and in charge of most of the day-to-day operations, Charlie Bares, who owns the farm most of the products will be grown on, and Kathleen Moriarty, attorney and “silent partner.”
“Distilleries are up and coming businesses in New York, and we’re using all New York state products,” Moriarty explained.
The trio calls their union on the venture fate. Bares and Moriarty were interested in opening a distillery, and then heard that Scharf, who had distilling experience, had a building available that would be able to house the distillery.
Scharf described the building, located at 5462 Robbins Road, as “an industrial building with high ceilings that’s good for manufacturing.” The building itself has a unique local history. Originally owned by Billy Northrup, it was used for many things over the years, including a place to tear down and rebuild train cars and a machine shop, among others. Scharf’s family purchased the building about 10 years ago, and it’s been vacant for the last two.
The space, located near Ashford Junction (where Route 240 meets Route 242) had to be completely renovated to make way for the distillery. “We had to add new electric and water, repaint the floor, install new lighting, and make it handicap accessible,” stated Scharf. “It’s still a work in progress, and we’re currently finishing the bar area.”
The corner stone of the operation is a 500-gallon copper pot still custom made in Germany. The 40-by-60 feet wide-open floor plan also features an upstairs mezzanine for bottles and storage, fermentors downstairs, a bottling and labeling area, and a retail space.
In the retail area, tasting flights and cocktails will be available, and customers will be able to purchase a bottle of vodka or whisky. Currently, the distillery is producing an apple vodka, sourced locally by Mayer Bros., a corn vodka and a corn whisky.
The Agronomist, as the line of spirits are called, “comes from the word agronomy and is loosely defined as the science of producing and using plants for food,” explained Moriarty. What makes this concept unique is that Bares is an agronomist. Starting late this fall, Bares will be harvesting his own grains.
“Among hundreds of distilleries nationwide—most of which buy grain—we will be one of a small handful who actually grow their own inputs. This really sets us apart from the pack,” Moriarty said.
Looking to the future, Scharf hopes to add other products to the mix. “I’m currently working on gin and honey spirits,” he noted.
Getting ready to open was not an overnight process. “It’s taken a while because of the lead time on the equipment,” said Scharf. “There’s also a big learning curve on this new endeavor for all of us.”
Moriarty added that, “We had to apply for a federal liquor license, as well as a state one,” and that also took time.
In addition to being available in the distillery itself, the partners want to focus on building their brand, and see their products being available at other local bars and restaurants, as well as in liquor stores.
The Ellicottville Distillery is set to open Sept. 30. While Scharf will be there working most days, it be open to the public Fridays, 4 to 8 p.m., Saturdays, 1 to 7 p.m. and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. The web site is still a work in progress, but will soon be available for more info at www.ellicottvilledistillery.com.