With farming in his family's blood for five generations, Orange County Distillery co-owner John Glebocki decided it was time to take his agribusiness to a whole new level. As farm-to-table eateries are carving out a niche in the region, he and his wife's cousin, Bryan Ensall—a landscaper by trade—took a leap of faith after brainstorming at a Christmas party a couple of years ago, and created the Hudson Valley's first-ever farm-to-bottle distillery in the black dirt region of Orange County, New York.

The result? Products that are 100 percent grown, malted, mashed, fermented, distilled, aged and bottled on their farm.

When we had people try the beet vodka, it was definitely a new twist on vodka; it was a vodka you can actually sip.

OCD's first crop used to test the distilling waters was a surplus of sugar beets in 2013 used for what has since become their flagship product, vodka. Their early success then led the two—who had no previous distilling experience whatsoever--to growing grains and experimenting with even more recipes and to another new spirit, a bourbon whiskey.

According to Glebocki, the entire process had a slow learning curve.

"We took a good year, year-and-a-half of making alcohol before we started putting labels on our products," he said. "So it was definitely a gamble because we didn't know if we were going to create something people were going to like.”

Sally Sosler
Sally Sosler

The pair realized they were onto something when they began their taste testings.

“When we had people try the beet vodka, it was definitely a new twist on vodka; it was a vodka you can actually sip,” he said. “So, after the first few hundred people liked it, and we began bottling and selling it, and the restaurants wanted to use it, we knew that this whole field to bottle thing was a really strong marketing tool."

Orange County Distillery is adamant about keeping their product field-to-bottle.

“If we have any kind of crop failure or other issue with distilling a grain, we don't do what other distilleries do and bring in outside locally-sourced ingredients. If we can't grow it, we won't use it,” said Glebocki. “We've had our fair share of waste he said. But because we distill in small batches, we're not losing, say 10,000 gallons of product that didn't make the cut.”

After their success in 2013, they slowly branched out their products to include other craft spirits, including rye whiskey, corn whiskey, gin, and even a single malt whiskey which features a smoky peat flavor obtained from the black dirt of Orange County. In addition to sugar beets, the farm grows barley, corn, rye, hops, as well as the herbs used for the gin.

If we can't grow it, we won't use it.

Orange County Distillery's corn whiskey and bourbon recently received silver medals at the 2016 American Craft Spirits Association awards, and their gin took the bronze.

All the magic happens in a small 1600 square foot barn located at the farm at 19B Maloney Lane in Goshen, that was converted by Glebocki into a working distillery. That's where people can visit for tastings and purchase their products and view the production area. Due its size, its only able to accommodate ten or fewer visitors at a time.

In addition, there is a second location where the public can visit called the Orange County Distillery at Brown Barn Farms. That is located at 286 Maple Avenue in New Hampton where they serve unique cocktails such as “The Old Dark Machine,” which features OCD's unaged rye whiskey, Riesling and elderflower.

Another cocktail, “Dog in the Rain” is made with OCD corn whiskey, maple and orange water, while another—“Just south of Marfa, Texas”—features OCD unaged rye whiskey, crème de cassis and Butternuts Porkslap Pale Ale. There you can also purchase their products and enjoy live music on weekends as well as special farm-to-table dinners created by local chefs brought in for the occasion.

For more information about events and tastings visit their website http://orangecountydistillery.com.

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