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Startup Spotlight: An Unsinkable Business?

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Year two of operations at Port Chester-based Neversink Spirits finds its founders anticipating the 2017 debut of their estate-branded apple brandy.  

Created from special rare varietal apples planted in an orchard at Camps Road Farm in nearby Kent Hollow, Connecticut, the new distilled product will join Neversink’s increasingly popular 80-proof apple brandy, which is made from New York State apples and just won the 2016 gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits competition. The craft distillery’s cofounders, Noah Braunstein and Yoni Rabino (pictured above, L to R), are old Mamaroneck High School friends who launched the business in mid-2015.

Why apple brandy? “Growing up in New York State, we wanted to do something that reflects the best of our agricultural output. Passionate about fruit spirits in general, we decided to focus on apples, which are so important to the State,” explains Braunstein.

While initial funding for Neversink came from friends and families, growth has been impressive. They now have in excess of 120 accounts that are a mix of restaurants and retailers. And, as Braunstein explains, this number will expand shortly, since they are working with a distributor that will give them access to New Jersey and Connecticut buyers.

Neversink also is part of the Food Cycle, a partnership in which Braunstein and Rabino are two of five members actively involved in producing and distributing various consumables. Besides Neversink, Food Cycle partners run the Kent Falls Brewing Company, manufacture whiskey, and oversee operations at the 48-acre Camps Road Farm, where Neversink maintains an apple orchard.

However Braunstein and Rabino spend the vast majority of their time at Neversink, especially their 3,000-square-foot Port Chester distillery. Neversink’s product roster, which features the “eau de vie” brandy now in production, plus a limited volume of pear brandy, will hopefully be joined next fall by the estate-branded apple brandy. Neversink’s brandies are produced by fermentation and double distillation. What emerges is a clear spirit, a fragrant eau de vie that, Braunstein says, is ideal for sipping by itself or as a key cocktail ingredient.  

Such craft spirits are just starting to gain ground, according to Braunstein. “People are aware of craft brews; there’s less awareness of craft distilleries, at least here in New York State,” he notes. “But I’m confident we’ll see many more craft-distilled beverages coming to market to meet consumer demands.”

As for the origins of the Neversink name, it references a tributary of the Delaware River and a Catskills-based reservoir. Plus, as Braunstein explains, “It’s also where, before our business was launched, Yoni and I used to spend a lot of time birdwatching.”

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