Grains: Malting Our Own

Malting is the process of allowing grain to sprout. Only malted grains have the enzymes to convert starch to sugar and are thus necessary for making whiskey mash.

Although new local malting facilities, such as Valley Malt in Hadley, Massachusetts, have begun to emerge, we decided to begin our own malting program to retain control over this critical step in the grain treatment process. Malting our own grains will enable us to experiment with unusual flavors, and allows us to expand into smoking our malt at the kilning stage.

Rye straight from the field.


We took as much as we could handle!


Our First Floor Malting.


Sprouting Rye with Acrospires



Grains: Supporting Local Farmers

We have long held that distilling is a culinary art, and we are glad to help the local food revolution extend into distilled spirits. We take our ingredients seriously and began building relationships with local farmers long before we had started Coppersea.

Although it sounds simple, better grain and better water make better whiskey.

We are sourcing our Rye, Corn, and Barley from nearby farms whose philosophies and practices around sustainability mirror ours. We have some farms growing specific grain varietals directly for us, and when we have found organic supplies, we have jumped to bring them in.

Corn Fields in late Summer


Corn drying on the stalk


Rich, meaty kernels!


An old-fashioned shelling machine


In the bag & ready to go.








Late 2012…Licensing & First Runs

In the dog days of July the TTB and NYSLA approved our federal and state licenses. Christopher Williams, our Distiller Manager, joined us about that time, and we immediately set about finding late-season fruit to make Eau de Vie, and grains to test our whiskey recipes.

These initial efforts paid off with some amazing Peach Eau de Vie, and recipes for our initial New York Raw Rye unaged whiskey.

Angus monitoring the still & condenser


Collecting Spirits from the first run for proofing.








Spreading the News…

At the ADI Conference in Louisville, KY in April, I delivered a talk and an accompanying white paper to the conference on the current state of the Craft Distillery market, highlighting the tremendous growth in the industry to that point, and the opportunities ahead. The paper and research have become the reference source for data on the Craft Distilling market, and have created wonderful opportunities to engage with the press and other tastemakers in the Craft Distilling and food communities. Over 150 people have downloaded the white paper (available here, of course) so far.

Coverage has included industry and trade press, such as Modern Distillery Age, and Dowd’s Spirits Notebook, and mass-market media such as Time Business online and, most recently, MSNBC/Today. While all of the coverage I could link to is available on our Press page, I would like to draw particular attention to the interview on Damon Boelte’s internet radio show, The Speakeasy. Damon was an excellent, informed host, and I encourage listening to other episodes as well.

What has captured the imagination of many in the paper is the uncanny similarity between the growth path of the Craft Distilling market, and that of the Craft Brewers 20 years prior. That chart is below…



Roll In the Barrels!

As we continue our build-out, Angus has been continually keeping tabs on opportunities to acquire solid equipment at favorable prices, and such an opportunity came along last week. A craigslist ad appeared offering several dozen used wine barrels (and other equipment) from a business that offered wine-making classes that was in, pardon the pun, liquidation.

We were very pleased to lay in enough for aging quite a bit of whiskey. And we hope to start doing so soon!

Barrels for Aging


Founder’s Blog: Site Leased, November, 2011

Angus began conversations with our site owners many years ago, and as he got to know them, he discussed the idea of using the space as a distillery. They were excited at the prospect, and we’re glad to have them as part of the Coppersea family.


The site, on a bluff above the Hudson River, has a feature that makes it uniquely qualified to house a distillery: an 80,000-Gallon cistern, fed directly from an on-site well, sitting slightly uphill from the distillery house itself.


The prior owners of the site, the Holy Cross Monastery nearby, had constructed the building to use as a print shop. It has ample space for us to build out our “traditional-methods” production facility, a large barreling loft, and separated space for the “front of the house,” where we’ll greet visitors, and have Coppersea products available for sale.



Founder’s Blog: The Closing, July, 2011

Our investor pool is the classic “Angel” financing model of raising capital from friends and family. I am very grateful to all of our investors, and, like most entrepreneurs, I have also invested my own money. I believe it’s important to show enough confidence in the business that investors know you stand right alongside them, for good & bad.


I began speaking with potential investors again in late-2010, and by mid-March, I felt confident that we would be able to raise enough initial capital to make the business a reality.


We formally incorporated the company in February, and spent the next several months going through terms and conditions of the financing, and, then, the glorious legal root canal of finalizing the documents.  We officially “closed” the initial financing in late-July, 2011.


And three days later I gave notice at work to devote myself full-time to Coppersea.




Founder’s Blog: The Early Going (2008-2010)

One day, in early 2008, Copperse’s distiller and co-founder Angus MacDonald posted a note on (an old-school online community we were both on from long ago) asking if anyone might be interested in helping him get a craft distillery off the ground.


So began the journey that brought us to where we are today.


Although we had a solid business plan and were starting to have conversations with potential investors as early as mid-Summer, 2008, our desire to move ahead came head-to-head with the reality of the global financial crisis that hit in Autumn. Angus and I continued to maintain contact &, but kept active development on the back burner until the funding environment opened up.


By late-2010 the time felt right to make a move. Revising the business plan showed no slow-down in the rapid growth of the Craft Distilling market, and I knew Angus’ distilling knowledge and my business & operations background would be a strong combination…