Monday, March 26, 2012

Destination: Harvest Spirits

Welcome to Harvest Spirits!

Harvest Spirits is one of the many farm distilleries that have popped up in New York. It is located in Valatie, NY, about 20 minutes south east of Albany, open Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5. If you aren't paying attention, you might just drive past it, because it is located just behind a farm stand, Golden Harvest. Since the distillery is so photogenic, I included almost all of the pictures that I took. Expect a ton. I don't think you'll mind though.

The first thing you will notice is the smell. Like most distilleries, it is sweet and a little boozy, but if you like liquor, it is a wonderful smell. Next, you will notice the decor. The distillery is setup with all of the charm of a rustic farmhouse, with the notable exception of a bright copper still sitting in the corner, a large bar taking up about a quarter of the room, and barrels literally everywhere. You'll certainly be greeted by one of the few extremely friendly guys that work there, generally Collin. Even though I have only been there a handful of times (with large gaps in between visits), Collin always recognized me, which I happen to find impressive. 

Now on to the reason why I visit. Harvest Spirits makes a variety of spirits, but their main liquor, the one they are known for, is Cornelius Applejack. One of the reasons is that it is phenomenal, the other is that very few places make Applejack. In case you are unfamiliar, Applejack is effectively a whiskey that is made with apples. It is aged in barrels, but not for too long, so it has the pale brown that you would expect from a lightly oaked whiskey. The taste is almost like a bourbon, a little sweet, but I'll get into this more in a different post.  

Let's say that whiskey isn't your thing. Well, don't let that stop you from driving out. Tastings are $1 a piece (max of three so you can still drive) and you get to pick from their selection of spirits. They produce a vodka (Core), made from apples. If you know me, you probably know that I detest vodka, because I feel like I can't stand behind a liquor that tastes less the "better" it is. Core is different. It is far and away the best vodka I have ever had, just a hint of sweetness and almost creamy. 

They also recently came out with an alteration on the Core, Black Raspberry Core. For this, they add fresh squeezed raspberry juice to their Core and redistill it, adding a splash more to give it the distinctive red color. Don't think for a second that it is like you're normal flavored vodkas. The raspberry flavor is subtle and pleasant, since the vodka is redistilled. Even if you don't generally like vodka, it would be worth your time to give the Core vodkas a shot. 

Not in the mood for vodka? Fine. Go with one of the many brandies that they produce. They have a couple un-aged brandies (apple and pear). They also have an aged pear brandy, called Rare Pear (this is my favorite of the bunch). They also make a couple different Grappas. This is something that I would suggest. Their grappas are less, pardon the technical term, burny. It is much less harsh than any of the other grappas that I have tried. I actually found the taste very pleasant. Worth giving it a shot. 

One of the fun things that they like to do at Harvest Spirits is infuse their products. They have a shelving unit that is literally full of different infusions of their various spirits. All you need to do is ask them about them. Chat it up. Make it more interesting for them, so they don't have to give the same spiel to everybody that comes in, and you get more info on some of the things they are trying out. Who knows, they might even let you try some. I've had their bacon infused Applejack and it was just perfect. 

You'll have a good time, regardless of if they are busy or it is slow, but I generally like to go when it is empty. This way, I get to ask all of my stupid questions in relative safety and I don't feel like I'm bothering them (which I can all but assure you that you never could). Plus, you might get a chance to try something interesting. I was given the opportunity to try their hard cider, which is not sold, but rather is distilled to make their spirits. They seem to think that it wouldn't sell well on its own, but I really enjoy it. 

First things first, what is wrong with the above photo? You have probably noticed that there are more than a few photos with barrels that have art on the top. There were really too many to take pictures of, but my favorite is the barrel of monkeys one. They are always open to new designs, so if you are artistically inclined, you can stop by with one of your designs and they might let you put it on a barrel. Pretty cool of them.

It is really not hard to find, and it is a short trip from Albany. You can go, grab some fruit and cider doughnuts from the farm stand (the best I have ever had), then head over to the distillery. Take in the art, the smells, pet their dog, chat with the guys, and check out a cool local distillery. While you're there, you should try some of their liquor as well. 

Check out their website here.

Also, when you go, let me know and I'll come along. It is always worth a trip.

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