Wednesday, August 12, 2015
BERNARDSVILLE – A borough man is opening the state’s largest craft distillery in Fairfield this weekend.
Founder and CEO Tim Koether of Bernardsville started Claremont Distilled Spirits after more than 25 years on Wall Street as a hedge fund manager.
The business will serve vodka and moonshine, and eventually, whiskey and bourbon. It officially opens for tastings on Saturday, Aug. 1, at 25 Commerce Road, Unit K.
Claremont Distilled Spirits will also be releasing their products, Claremont Vodka and Jersey Devil Moonshine, that day.
Koether decided on using the name “Claremont” because it is commonly seen in the Bernardsville area, including the Claremont estate, a house designed by architect George B. Post. Post designed the New York Stock Exchange building, the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Williamsburg Savings Bank and many other commercial buildings in New York City.
The 70-acre Claremont estate sits atop Bernardsville Mountain on Claremont Road. Koether and his family lived in the guest house of the estate for a year while their home was being built, he said.
Three years ago Koether stopped working and decided he wanted to have something of his own.
“I wanted to produce something tangible,” Koether said.
The distilling business is a very good market, he said, and it is something he enjoys. Right now, Claremont is a three-man operation with just Koether, head distiller Chris DeGasperis and sales manager Bill Brown.
DeGasperis perviously worked at a distillery in Brooklyn, N.Y., and prior to that a brewery in Pennsylvania.
Brown comes from a wine importing sales/brand ambassador background for a winery.
Brown said now is a great time for the craft distilling market. Just a few years ago, there were no craft distilleries in New Jersey, but lately they have seen a large boom, he said. Fairfield alone has Jersey Artisan Distilling, Cricket Hill Brewing and Magnify Brewing.
“We welcome the competition,” Brown said.
He added that there is a positive trend in the craft market that will benefit them.
“It makes it a destination,” Koether said.
Koether and Brown said they hope having a few spots to visit in the area will draw people in and allow them to go on a tour of the different locations.
Claremont is also very proud to be located in New Jersey and wants to promote that, Koether said. The moonshine is even labeled, “Jersey Devil Moonshine.”
The Claremont Vodka is made from potatoes, which are from New Jersey when available.
Currently, the vodka and moonshine are the distillery’s main products. They eventually plan to distribute whiskey and bourbon, which are years down the line due to the time needed for aging, according to Brown.
“We’re really want to promote that we are a New Jersey product,” Koether said.
Anything that they can get from New Jersey, such as the potatoes or corn, they are using in the product. Koether also plans to make blueberry and cranberry infused moonshine and vodka using Jersey-grown berries.
Change In Law
It was only in 2013 when the state changed the laws to promote craft distilleries, Brown said.
Koether noted that New Jersey was late in the craft distilling game, which began on the West Coast. To be considered a craft distillery, production needs to be under 20,000 gallons a year.
Claremont Distillery has the capacity for 20,000 gallons leading them to be the largest distillery in New Jersey.
Brown said that people have already embraced the craft beer movement and the commercial breweries have seen the hit. He believes now those trends are happening with craft alcohol.
The space in Fairfield is 7,000 square feet, which easily accommodates the distillery’s intended production. Other New Jersey distilleries are smaller and have a limited production capacity, according to Koether.
“Fairfield has been very accommodating,” Koether said.
There were a lot of zoning hurdles and issues in other municipalities, but Fairfield was phenomenal to work with, Kother added. He signed the lease on the building in November of 2014 and incorporated the business in May of the same year.
Koether has lived in New Jersey his entire life, currently in Bernardsville.
DeGasperis and Brown are also from New Jersey. DeGasperis currently lives in Hoboken and Brown in Pompton Lakes.
Tours and tastings will begin on Saturday, Aug. 1, and tours will follow weekly from noon to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call (973) 227-7027 or visit, claremontdistillery.com.