After work on a recent Wednesday afternoon we converged on Jersey Spirits Distilling Company and met owners John Granata and Sue Lord. We’ve been following their progress on Instagram since they opened in August 2015. The week just after Ed’s birthday and before vacation seemed like a great time to visit and celebrate with some craft beverages.
Before we started the tasting, John gave us a tour of the distilling facilities. They were making bourbon on the day we visited and the whole building smelled like delicious cooking and fermenting corn. We’ve toured some beer breweries before and were impressed with the amount of work it takes to make beer but distilling is quite a different and even more complex process. The appearance is more chemistry lab than brewery. John’s daughter Noel works with him to make all their spirits.
John came from a family of food service industry professionals and his father was a chemist. He said this was what got him started in the art and science of distilling. Like being a chef or a baker, you have to know some of the science behind what you’re doing in distilling but also be an artist to play with flavors and know what which will work together. Before striking out on their own John and Sue apprenticed at a few distilleries to learn and perfect the trade. They spent time working in Florida, Kentucky, Vermont and New York before returning to New Jersey to start up their own distillery.
Just some of the things that impart flavors to the spirits are the charred American Oak barrels which they have specially made for them in Wisconsin as well as many natural flavorings like maple syrup, mint, apples and even pumpkins in the fall which are produced right in New Jersey. The maple syrup in their Maple White Whiskey is from Lebanon which John said gave a less sweet note than the typical Vermont maple syrup. The coffee in their Coffee Vodka is 8 O’Clock Coffee from right here in NJ. It got its start as the in-house coffee brand of A&P.
Even after the local ingredients have been used, they are recycled locally. 70 cows in Sussex County love eating the spent grains that their farmer gets from Jersey Spirits. John told us that he also hopes to match clients who love their liquor up with restaurants who will serve the beef from these cows soon to create a cycle of food, drinks and locally-owned businesses that will benefit the entire community. He’s also looking for someone interested in his spent wash which he says acts as a great fertilizer.
It took six months of production beginning in August 2015 to get all the products ready for sale that they had originally planned. They are doing so well one year into production that John said he’s ahead of schedule in what he thought he could do in Year One of their business plan. They already sell their products in 40 bars and liquor stores.
They’ve won awards already, too! That’s pretty amazing for a business that’s only been running for a year. Their DSP.7 Gin won a Gold Medal as one of the 50 Best Gins and their Boardwalk Light Amber Rum won the American Distilling Institute’s Silver Medal.
Once the tour was over, we got down to tasting some of these drinks we’d been hearing about. The tasting room is in front of the production facility and it’s got some really nice decorative touches.
The signs and some of the metal and wood pieces around the room are made by local artisans Raw Industrial Design from right in Fairfield. They even made the sampling boards which, of course, we totally loved.
The bar was made of old barn wood and crafted by Asbury Woodcraft of Asbury Park.
We tasted many of the spirits but our favorites were definitely the Barnegat White Maple Whiskey (which we brought a bottle on vacation with us) and their Orange Vodka which wasn’t available in bottles at the time but will be ready in a month or two and we’re patiently waiting for its arrival so we can go back and get some. John and Sue were very patient in explaining all their flavors and let us have little sample tastes before buying full samplers. We had a really great time visiting Jersey Spirits Distilling Company and we’ll definitely be going back.
Check out all the pictures from our visit to their facilities in Fairfield and then plan your own trip to try all their delicious NJ spirits. They have barrel share programs as well as mixology classes and apprentice opportunities. Plus, they are really nice people. Get to Fairfield and try some of these amazing, deliciously complex drinks!
Jersey Spirits Distilling Company
1275 Bloomfield Ave., Building 7 Unit 40B, Fairfield
In the Rennsalear/Pio Costa Complex right next to Magnify Brewery
Monday – Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday – Thursday: 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Friday: 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Saturday: 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Sunday: 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
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