By Deb Everts
The Ellicottville Distillery recently released its 18-month-old bourbon whiskey both commercially and to the general public earlier this month.
Chief Distiller Bryan Scharf said he wanted to get the bourbon to the two-year mark before his next release, but a lot of people have been asking for it so he decided to do an 18-month release on March 16.
“The distillery had a limited run last September at the one-year mark,” he said. “We had probably 100 bottles out and it sold very well and very quickly within two months.”
The bourbon is getter closer to the two-year mark, Scharf said, which he’s shooting for to do a full release in late September, which would also be the distillery’s three-year anniversary.
“There’s a demand for bourbon and it doesn’t go bad. Alcohol also mellows with age. The longer it sits, the better it gets,” he added.
Scharf said he is still considering distilling a bourbon cream liqueur that would be similar to Baileys Irish Cream and would be a nice, sweet dessert drink. He said they’ve
done some sampling and it’s gone over pretty well, but for now, his focus is on the bourbon and he’s adding another 15 barrels of the spirit right now that will be aging.
According to Scharf, the production all starts in the still, then it gets aged in barrels.
He said the difference between distilling bourbon and corn whiskey is the latter aged in used oak barrels, whereas bourbon is aged in new oak barrels. Aside from bourbon, most other whiskeys are aged in used bourbon barrels — like scotch and Irish whiskey.
“Whiskeys that are aged in the used bourbon barrels are milder and there is not as much flavor up front because you don’t get as much oak,” he said. “That’s the thing with bourbon; you get a lot of tannins from the oak to give it an oaky, smoky, vanilla flavor.”
The Ellicottville Distillery officially opened its doors for business in October 2016. In addition to being chief distiller, Scharf also manages the distillery and is in charge of most of the day-to-day operations.
His partners, Charlie and Liz Bares of Ellicottville, own the farmlands where the corn and barley crops are grown making the distillery self-sustaining and allowing it to operate independently. Scharf said the ability to grow their own products sets them apart, unlike most distilleries that buy commodity grain.
At the heart of the entire operation is a 500-gallon copper pot still, custom-made in Germany, where the spirits are created. The distillery currently offers its unique line corn whiskey, bourbon, vodka, a gin, Honey Spirit and Appleshine.
“I’ll have a blueberry vodka coming out this summer, so we’ll be doing a little release thing for that too — hopefully in July,” he added.
Things are constantly changing at the distillery. To separate the tasting activities from the manufacturing area, Scharf has built an enclosed tasting room. He said the half-walls are now 10-feet high and there are viewing windows, so guests can see the manufacturing area. He’s going to put in a dropped ceiling, so it’s even more enclosed.
A number of events are being planned for this summer, as well as the fall, including Empire Animal Rescue Society (EARS) from Salamanca, May 18; a bonfire in June; a Fourth of July weekend event with fireworks and possibly a corn hole tournament sometime in July.
Scharf said he is planning a three-year anniversary celebration for the distillery in September, and the motorcycle event will be back again that month.
The Ellicottville Distillery is located at 5462 Robbins Road, near Ashford Junction. Public tastings are currently held Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m. For more information, call the distillery at 597-6121 or visit online at ellicottvilledistillery.com, Facebook and Instagram.