By Deb Everts
Ellicottville Distillery has been put in the spotlight by the website The Fifty Best and awarded a Double Gold medal for “The Agronomist: New York State Corn Whiskey.”
The Fifty Best hosted a Moonshine Tasting Nov. 30 in New York City, where 12 contenders were evaluated for the distinguished “Best Moonshine” awards for 2018. The results were published earlier this month.
Using professional criteria, the pre-qualified panel of judges blind-tasted the moonshines and rated them individually on a point scoring system. After tallying the scores, medals were awarded based on the judges’ impressions.
Distiller Bryan Scharf said his corn whiskey was one of only two moonshines among the 12 contenders to win the Double Gold award. The Agronomist New York State Corn Whiskey is distilled from 100 percent corn and is 80 percent proof.
Complete ranking results, along with tasting notes, are published on “The Fifty Best” online, thefiftybest.com, which is a digital guide to wines and spirits. The website features rated listings from proprietary blind tastings judged by wine/spirits journalists, spirits professionals, retailers, mixologists, spirits consultants and connoisseurs. The Fifty Best achieves the highest standards of spirits evaluations by adhering to strict tasting rules and rigorous methodology.
The Fifty Best described the spirit’s nose, palate and finish with a handful of descriptions. Its nose was described as ripe banana peel, sweet corn, and popcorn, among others; descriptions for its palate included vanilla, sugar cane and breadfruit; and its finish included descriptions like corn, corn husks, berries, nutty, herbal, clean and smooth.
“The nose is what you smell before you try the spirit, the palate is how it sits and tastes on your tongue,” he said. “The finish is what the spirit leaves in your mouth after you finish the taste. Not all of those things are actually in the spirit, but those are the descriptors the judges used to describe what they tasted.”
The Ellicottville Distillery officially opened its doors for business in October 2016. In addition to being chief distiller, Scharf also manages the distillery and is in charge of most of the day-to-day operations. His partners, Charlie and Liz Bares of Ellicottville, own the farmlands where the corn and barley crops are grown, making the distillery self-sustaining and allowing it to operate independently. Scharf said the ability to grow their own products sets them apart, unlike most distilleries that buy commodity grain.
The distillery currently offers the more traditional corn whiskey and vodka. Scharf said his corn whiskey will be aged soon and they’re working to have a gin out this summer. Along with honey spirits, he hopes to add other products in the future including a line of 100 percent corn bourbon that he’s currently working on.
Ellicottville Distillery is located at 5462 Robbins Road near Ashford Junction. Public tastings are currently held on Saturdays from noon to 4:30 p.m. and are expected to be extended this summer. For more information, visit the distillery online at ellicottvilledistillery.com, Facebook or Instagram.