“287 to Rt. 1 and 9A” aren’t terrible driving directions, but the production order of StilltheOne Distillery’s latest editions to their handcrafted Westchester Whiskey line.
StilltheOne opened at the tail-end of 2009 — the first distillery to do so in Westchester County since the introduction of Pohibition in 1920 — quickly winning hearts (and our 2011 BOW Editor’s Pick) with their COMB line of honey vodkas. Not honey-flavored, mind you; they ferment orange blossom honey into honey wine (mead), then distill that into a smooth, clear, 80-proof spirit.
According to distillery owner Albert Savarese, vodka is one of the quickest and easiest spirits to produce, hence the popularity amongst bootleggers during prohibition and therefore an excellent jumping off point for a new distillery. From there, it was a small feat to add botanical elements to flavor the spirit — say, with juniper, to create the world’s only brand of honey-based gin. Following these successes, the company began fermenting cane juice to produce STO Rum.
“I’m very proud of creating a nouveau product line that’s very tasty on ice or just straight up,” Savarese says. “I don’t want anything that needs a mixer or any fluff.”
Savarese is also a proud, lifelong Westchesterite and the ethos behind the distillery’s fastest-growing product line: the Westchester Whiskeys.
The original No. 3 Westchester Whiskey gets its name from the lighter “char-3” used in the barrels that aged its maiden batch, and the 100 percent organic, New York-grown wheat that filled them. After that came the No. 4 Westchester Rye Whiskey, with a deeper char and 100 percent New York rye grown exclusively for the distillery. Blending New York grown corn and wheat yielded the 914 Westchester Bourbon.
This is where whiskey purists might start frothing at the mouth: In December 2013, Still the One reached out to the Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Elmsford. Bourbon and beer, they reasoned, are both made out of grain; logically there’s no reason one couldn’t be transformed into the other. Captain Lawrence owner Scott Vaccaro agreed, shipping them — what else? — his signature Freshchester pale ale to distill. The resulting single malt was aged three years and named 287 in honor of the highway connecting the two companies. The 287 line has now branched out with other local brewers to create the Rt. 1 distilled from a Belgian ale, and the 9A distilled from a heavier stout.
The entire bottling process is done by hand, including capping, foiling, and labeling, though they did just get an electric labeler to replace the hand-cranked model now lying beneath the same workbench. After each bottle is perfected, its label is marked by hand with the month, how long it was aged, and the type of wood from which it drew its flavor. On a good day, the team can produce 120 six-bottle cases. By the end of this year, they will have churned out a staggering one thousand barrels.
StilltheOne Distillery is predominantly a three-man operation, (four if you include Branzino, the Official Distillery dog). Head Distiller Tyler LaCorata, whom Savarese calls “the Willy Wonka of distilling,” is also a Hudson Valley native and former chef. Assistant Distiller Ryan Sadis hales from Long Island but has now lived in Westchester for more than a year. Savarese himself is so hands-on as owner he frequently shows up at the distillery to sweep, mop, bottle, or ask if there’s anything else he can help with. “Sometimes, I wish he wouldn’t,” jokes LaCorta. The company even has its own distributor’s license, meaning all three also serve as de facto sales reps. (Branzino supervises production.)
The distillery is only two rooms, a “boutique distillery” as Savarese calls it, at about 3,500 square feet. The first room is filled with massive tubs, tanks, and casks lining the walls and floor space, all carefully marked to age precisely, while enormous stills reach to the ceiling in gleaming brass. The counter of the small reception desk that houses their computers and filing is lined with hand-labeled apothecary jars, corked flasks, beakers, and various other containers of what can only righteously be called “concoctions”: everything from “navy strength” gin to an experimental absinthe. If LaCorata is Willy Wonka, this is his world of pure imagination.
The second room used to be the distillery’s “rickhouse,” where the spirits aged. Those live barrels have since been moved out to a temporary facility, while their new rickhouse is readied up in Cortlandt Manor (which will also be a first in the county). The former space is now lined with virgin casks for décor, upturned barrel tables, and a StillTheOne bar, transforming it into a twenty-person tasting room and event space available to gatherings and corporate functions.
StilltheOne spirits are available online and at dozens of locations throughout New York and New Jersey, and typically retail for around $35-$45 per bottle.
Still the One Distillery
1 Martin Pl, Port Chester
Tours available by appointment
Tasting Room hours: Thurs-Fri 4-8 p.m., Sat 1-5 p.m.
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