Legal moonshine? Central New York’s craft distillers enter growing corn whiskey market (drink recipes)

Call it white lightning, white dog, corn dog, hooch, mountain dew, or corn likker.

Some people even call it moonshine.

But if you do that around Thomas McKenzie, the distiller at Finger Lakes Distiliing Co. near Watkins Glen, he may try to set you straight.

“It ain’t moonshine,” McKenzie says of his distillery’s crystal clear and unaged Glen
Thunder Corn Whiskey. “Moonshine is illegal, and this here is legal.”

Besides, said McKenzie, a native of Alabama who comes from a family of distillers, “corn whiskey is a good drink. They’ve been making it since before Prohibition. This here is real corn whiskey, made the right way.”

Some Central New York distillers aren’t as reluctant to apply vaguely illicit names to their totally legal versions of corn whiskey. Myer Farm Distillers in Ovid on Cayuga Lake calls its corn whiskey White Dog and Clayton Distillery in the Thousand Islands calls its example Two Dog Moonshine.

Read Article Here

New Life Media: The Legacy Is Here TV Spot

The Legacy Is Here (Clayton Distillery) from New Life Media on Vimeo.

The Legacy Is Here

New Life Media for Clayton Distillery

Shot on location in Clayton, NY USA. Legal available upon request. © 2013 Clayton Distillery / New Life Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Used with permission only.

WWNYTV: North Country’s First Distillery Almost Ready

The dream of three friends is about to go public.

Clayton Distillery, which is located on Route 12, is already making spirits and is set to open to the public next month.

The project has gone from talk to reality in about a year’s time.

“It has been quick, a very quick decision over a lunch and from there it just flourished into what you see today,” said Michael Ingerson, one of the partners.

Ingerson, Michael Aubertine and Roger Howard came up with the idea for a ‘micro-distillery,’ along the same lines as micro-breweries which make small quantities of specialized beer, or small vineyards for wine.

The distillery is already producing vodka and has plans to make gin, whiskey and other spirits. he distillery uses grains from local farmlands, and will have a store on-site.

“It’s great. Everything’s coming together and we’re seeing the product come out,” said Aubertine.



YNN: Distillery coming to North Country

A new production company will be lifting the spirits of many people in the North Country. Clayton Distillery hopes to open its doors to the regions first distillery this spring. YNN’s Carmella Mataloni took a tour of the new business and she shows us how it might start pouring money into the economy.

CLAYTON, N.Y.–All year round, many people travel to visit North Country wineries. Next month, another adult beverage spot will open; but this time, it’s a distillery.

“The Clayton area is just booming right now and all three partners are from Clayton. So, it just made sense to put it here,” said Michael Aubertine, Manager.

Manger Michael Aubertine will be running Clayton Distillery alongside three other partners. It will be known as the region’s first micro-distillery. Owners said they will use the natural resources around them.

“We actually grew all corn at my parents’ farm in Cape Vincent; and so, we put about 25 acres of farm land back into use, and also the tourism. I think it’s going to make a big difference,” said Aubertine.

Gin, vodka and moonshine, which is a bourbon recipe sold un-aged, are just some of the liquors you’ll be able to find at the facility.

Aubertine said it takes a week to make the liquor. The distillery will able to produce 1,000 bottles every four days.

“We’ve got good size tanks so that we can actually do pretty good size batches,” said Aubertine.

According to managers, a finished floor and a few more shelves for merchandise is all the distillery needs before it opens the doors on April 10th.


Watertown Daily Times: Clayton Distillery will try to put customers in high spirits

FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2013 ( LINK )
JUSTIN SORENSEN / WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Michael L. Aubertine is set to open his Clayton Distillery at 40164 Route 12, Clayton, in April.

Michael L. Aubertine is set to open his Clayton Distillery at 40164 Route 12, Clayton, in April.

CLAYTON — Along with the arrival of spring, north country residents will have a second reason to be in high spirits in April.

Clayton Distillery has made April 1 the target for opening its new 2,560-square-foot facility at 40164 Route 12. Vodka production started in earnest at the farm distillery in mid-February, and several 1,000-pound batches of mashed corn are now fermenting in stills. Starting next week, that alcohol will be sent through a 250-gallon copper pot still to prepare it for bottling.

It’s an exciting prospect for co-owner Michael L. Aubertine, who engineered and led the construction of the micro-distillery, which broke ground in July. After putting in 15-hour workdays for the past two months, he will soon operate a semiautomatic machine to fill 400 bottles of spirits per hour.

“This has been a lot of fun for me to figure out,” said the 44-year-old entrepreneur, who has spent the past 20 years doing similar design work for Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers & Land Surveyors in Watertown.

Customers who visit the farm distillery will first notice its rustic exterior designed by Mr. Aubertine. The building appeals to the eye with its shiplap pine siding, galvanized steel roof and visible rafters. A 110-foot sawtooth fence borders the parking lot to accentuate the rustic aura.

“We wanted to make it look like an old barn,” said Mr. Aubertine, who grew up on his family’s farm in Cape Vincent. Still owned by his parents, Terry and Linda Aubertine, the farm grows corn, rye, wheat and oats for production at the distillery.

The first attraction customers will notice when entering the distillery is the pot still, visible through glass doors that lead to the production area. At the retail space in front, they’ll be able to purchase shot glasses to sample vodka, gin, limoncello and what Mr. Aubertine calls moonshine, a bourbon that has not been aged. For sale only at the store, six-bottle cases of spirits will start at $28.99. Also offered will be T-shirts, hats and mugs.

Guided tours of the facility will teach customers how spirits are distilled from start to finish. Giving a reporter a tour Thursday, Mr. Aubertine began by talking about a large outdoor still filled with 46 tons of corn used for vodka production. The corn is transported inside the facility with an augur, which funnels it to a roller mill. The mill grinds the corn into powder before it’s channeled into the masher heated by steam, which is set at 190 degrees. After about an hour, the temperature is dropped to 167 degrees before a mixture of yeast is put in to start the fermentation.

“The yeast eats the sugar in the masher and converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide,” Mr. Aubertine said.

The alcohol is then stored in 500-gallon stainless steel tanks for about four days to ferment, a process that increases its alcohol content to more than 10 percent. It’s next pumped to the 250-gallon copper pot still that heats the alcohol at 174 degrees. For about seven hours, alcohol is vaporized and condensed inside a 16-foot-tall vodka column. The finished product is 95 percent pure grain alcohol. Finally, the pure alcohol is blended with water to produce the right concentration needed for various products; the vodka will have a 40 percent alcohol content, while gin will be 44 percent.

Mr. Aubertine’s goal is to sell more than 10,000 bottles of spirits during the first year of production. While producing spirits to sell, he will stow away barrels of bourbon that will need about three years to age. Two 53-gallon barrels will be produced each month, enabling the distillery to make 24 barrels a year.

If the business draws enough sales in its first year, he said, it will construct two additional buildings at the site — both more than 2,000 square feet. One would include additional retail space and offices and the other would provide extra room to store whiskey barrels.

Mr. Aubertine likes the chances of his distillery’s success in Clayton, about a mile-and-a-half from downtown. “We have a lot of traffic flow here, with good visibility and (room for) expandability.”

When the business opens in the spring, it will have two full-time and four part-time employees.

Mr. Aubertine co-owns the business with Michael L. Ingerson and Roger R. Howard, who work full time in Clayton and Watertown, respectively. The project was made possible partly by a $99,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase equipment.

Though he’s putting in long hours, the entrepreneur is savoring the freedom of being his own boss.

“Figuring this out has been fun for me,” he said. “After sitting behind a desk for the past 20 years, it’s nice to get back into farming again.”

Clayton Distillery will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Visit for more information.

Watertown Daily Times: Clayton micro-distillery nearing completion

The large grain bin outside Clayton Distilling Co. was filled by workers in late October. About 90 percent completed, the facility plans to start producing spirits by the end of January.

The large grain bin outside Clayton Distilling Co. was filled by workers in late October. About 90 percent completed, the facility plans to start producing spirits by the end of January.


CLAYTON — Construction of a 2,240-square-foot micro-distillery outside the village is about 90 percent done, and the facility is on track to be running in January.

“The only thing that’s left is our interior finishes, the bar inside the retail space and distilling equipment,” co-owner Michael L. Aubertine said of the project, which broke ground last spring. He said a 250-gallon copper pot still capable of processing 1,300 pounds of grain per day is set to arrive in December, but much of the equipment already has been installed. The facility houses a bin of grain needed to start making spirits, a full line of bottling equipment, scales and 1,500-liter fermentation tanks.

Ideally, Mr. Aubertine said, workers will start producing vodka, gin and fruit-flavored brandies by the end of January after equipment is installed and permits are acquired. If that timeline holds, the business likely will be open to the public by February. “The plan is to get as much stock built up in February and March to have some kind of ribbon-cutting in the spring,” he said.

Mr. Aubertine owns the facility with Clayton resident Michael L. Ingerson and Roger R. Howard, a Watertown small-business owner.

The distillery will be set up much like a winery, with a 960-square-foot retail space and tasting bar, and will include merchandise such as hats and T-shirts. Free quarter-ounce samples of spirits will be available and a full line of products will be showcased at the bar area. Daily tours of the facility will be hosted.

In addition to vodkas and gin, the distillery later will sell strawberry-rhubarb- and lemon-jello-flavored liquors. It also will start producing large barrels of whiskey that need to age for three years before they can be bottled and sold.

“We’re shooting for two barrels per month,” Mr. Aubertine said, adding that the return on that should help make the distillery profitable. “Our profitability should turn around completely once we pull whiskey out of the barrel, but it will be four or five years until we see the return on our investment.”

A Clayton farm owned by Mr. Aubertine’s parents, Terry and Linda Aubertine, will grow wheat, oats, rye and corn to be used at the distillery.

As a qualified farm distillery, Mr. Aubertine said, the company will be able to sell its products to retail stores, restaurants and bars.


Watertown Daily Times: Distilleries Are Fermenting in the North Country

Construction is currently underway and a month ahead of schedule. Clayton Distillery will be New York State’s 14th Distillery and the first to open in Northern New York.

Newzjunky: Clayton Distillery Proposes Specialty Liquors to Attract Canadian Tourists


by Timothy W. Scee II
Special to
Published May 30, 2012 ( LINK )

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — Plans for a farm distillery in the town of Clayton moved forward Tuesday as the Jefferson County Planning Board learned more about the business’ unique recycling methods for the alcohol’s byproducts and its potential boost for local tourism.

Michael L. Aubertine, an engineer with Aubertine and Courier Architects, Watertown, brought to life the workings of the inside of his proposed 2,240-square-foot distillery in which he and two business partners plan to produce vodka, gin, whiskey, bourbon, wine, brandy and specialty liquors from locally grown corn, wheat oats and rye.

The first 2 1/2 percent of the alcohol made in a batch of liquor, described by Mr. Aubertine as too hazardous for consumption, will be used to make a variety of goods.

“We’re taking that and mixing that with aloe gel and essential oils and making antibacterial hand gels,” he said. Other products such as hand soap, windshield washer fluid and antibacterial surface cleaners may also be produced.

“It’s about one-third retail and two-thirds manufacturing,” he said, adding that the hand gel will also be packaged on the premises.

Inside the building, customers will first enter the retail portion where liquor and its byproducts are sold along with shirts, hats and other Clayton Distillery-branded products.

“We’re going to also have a tour the whole process,” Mr. Aubertine said. “They’re going to be able to walk through and look right in the fermenters and see the stuff bubbling and see the whole process.”

The distillery co-owner said customers will also be able to taste some of the fruit of the distillery’s labor.

Mr. Aubertine said during each run of making whiskey, about 25 gallons of the 180-proof liquor is produced. A portion of the product will be poured into oak barrels and stored for about 2 1/2 years to make bourbon.

“We’re going to have (liquor) that’s pure corn, one that’s an oat vodka, wheat and rye,” Mr. Auebrtine said. “We’re also going to distill probably some wine products and blend them with corn whiskey and have some combination products.”

Since the business is described as a “farm distillery,” there are no parking requirements. Thirteen spaces are included with plans, however, with room for an additional 12 or even more.

It was only recently when Mr. Aubertine was at his child’s hockey game chatting with another dad who seemed to always bring up the topic of distilling.

“I’ve been researching it for about a year and a half and one of my friends from hockey, who’s a coach on my kid’s hockey team, took a class two years ago and then he just kept telling me about it when we were at games,” Mr. Aubertine said. “Then I started looking into it.”

Mr. Aubertine, Michael L. Ingerson and Roger R. Howard, of Howard Orthotics and Prosthetics in Watertown, partnered up for the business project.

In March, Mr. Aubertine enrolled in a two-day class at 45th Parallel Vodka, New Richmond, Wis., where he and fellow classmates were more thoroughly educated about the distilling process.

Curious to find what might attract customers, Mr. Aubertine asked neighbors and friends for product ideas.

“I met with local retailers and they were giving me some hits,” he said. “I was asking them what we should make, what’s going to sell, and they said with the Canadians a maple whiskey and a cherry whiskey would sell.”

The maple whiskey, Mr. Aubertine said, will be made using sap which will boil in with the ingredients.

“It will take about four days to ferment,” he said of the whiskey making process. “You have to distill it three times so it would take a minimum of probably three days. Within a week you could make a couple hundred gallons.”

Mr. Aubertine said about 10,000 units of liquor are expected to be produced in its first year, beginning after Jan 1, 2013.

The site plans were passed for review to the town of Clayton Planning Board.