Ghosts and goblins are the kind of spirits most of us think about this time of year.
By Holly Kennedy
Ghosts and goblins are the kind of spirits most of us think about this time of year. But on a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, my husband and I found ourselves, along with a small group of intrepid souls, enjoying spirits of an entirely different variety — gin, brandy, and vodka — handcrafted and distilled right in our backyard.
When a friend suggested we join an afternoon tour of a local distillery as a last-minute replacement, we couldn’t believe we were driving only five minutes away to see how gin and vodka are made. In August, my husband and I had visited our first microbrewery in the Finger Lakes, and enjoyed many tastings at the upstate vineyards. (As I write this I’m sitting in Sonoma County surrounded by the October crush of grapes.)
Generally, when I think tastings, I’m focused on wine. But this was completely different. I’d never heard of spirit tastings.
Intrigued, off we went to taste at Westchester’s only spirit distillery. We took a quick turn off Midland onto Purdy Avenue and found ourselves meandering through some undiscovered Port Chester neighborhoods in filled with two-family homes and light manufacturing. The only scary part of our spirit-filled day was when we pulled into a forlorn parking lot and couldn’t figure out where to go. Our congenial host and distillery owner, Ed Tiedge, quickly solved that mystery and led us up a small flight of stairs into an enormous room filled with different size stills. Visions of Willy Wonka’s magic came to mind as we gazed at the marvels of engineering that turned commodities, in this case honey, into tasty spirits.
Open only two years StilltheOne Distillery is a testament to the spirit of an entrepreneurial sort, coupled with determination and perseverance. Crediting his wife with inspiration for the name and the willingness to risk their life savings on a new business venture, Tiedge has created the first and only micro-distillery in the area, hand bottling boutique gin, vodka, and brandy under the COMB and Jarhead brands.
The former Marine and retired broker has a passion that has spilled over into something unique and delicious. “My goal is to make products that are well crafted and different,” Tiedge explained. After much trial and error in the recipe-making process, StilltheOne now has several popular handcrafted recipes based on using honey in the fermentation process. We lingered over a 50-gallon drum of vodka coming off the still. One flavor of gin, Jarhead, was developed and branded specifically to support the Wounded Warrior project. I liked that one the best, and was delighted to learn Tiedge donated $1.50 of each sale to this worthy organization.
Starting a new business takes spirit of a unique sort, and is scary in its own way. While StilltheOne is growing and has developed a loyal clientele, Tiedge explains that he’s yet to take a paycheck. “But the satisfaction of making something by hand, individually bottled, and ultimately having satisfied customers is worth it,” he said.
The tasting was a success and we found ourselves quite invigorated by the spirits. COMB spirits can be found at Wine at 5 and Post Road Market, as well as other local wine and spirit shops.