Most people I meet want to know what was the genesis of the idea for Finger Lakes Distilling. I guess it started with a genuine interest in the process of distillation that was sparked through visits to some of the world’s great whisk(e)y producing regions – Kentucky, Scotland and Ireland. Subsequent travels most often included a visit to some type of distillery, but to that point, it was just an interest.
The opportunity arose in 2007, when some transitions in my banking career prompted me to look into another direction. Most people thought I was crazy for leaving a stable position with a good company, but it was obvious to me that I wanted to start my own venture.
My wife, Jenny, and I are both from the area and have always loved the Finger Lakes region. The growth in wine-related tourism is certainly one of the brighter spots in the local economy, so we decided to pursue something that would be unique, but also cater to the same crowd.
Upstate NY agriculture is diverse and of fantastic quality, so we were comfortable with the raw material that would be going into our products. It was at this point that we also decided to focus on using local grapes, as they would tie in nicely with the wine culture in the area.
We joined forces with a small number of people that either owned distilleries in NYS or were looking into it. With the assistance of the NY Farm Bureau, we successfully lobbied for the NYS Farm Distillery Bill which opened up the possibility of offering tastings and retail sales at the site of production – a law that we determined would be important to the success of our business model. In August of 2007, the governor signed the bill that created this new class of distillery.
After considerable research, we decided to go for it. We spent months trying to find the right spot, design our facility and select our equipment. We still have a ways to go, but have also made significant progress. We’re excited to see things come together in the next few months.