Claremont Distilled Spirits in Fairfield takes the farm-to-table concept to a new level, by using Jersey-grown veggies to produce its vodka (potatoes) and moonshine (corn) as well some local fruit as well. Veronique Deblois checked in with the Distillery’s Amy Sutton for the story behind this innovative Essex County business.
JERSEY BITES: How did you get the idea to create Claremont Distilled Spirits?
AMY SUTTON: In December 2013, the state of New Jersey changed the laws on distilling to promote craft distilling. Our owner always had an interest in quality distilled products and the process in which these products are made. He believes that New Jersey provides an excellent opportunity for craft distillers based on the state’s dense population, sizable population of individuals of legal drinking age, and the state’s affluence. Additionally, many of the raw ingredients used in the production of distilled spirits could be easily accessed from within the state as a result of New Jersey’s strong agricultural presence. At the end of the day, we wanted to show that world-class distilled spirits could be made in New Jersey using locally sourced ingredients.
What types of ingredients are you using to create your spirits? Where do they come from?
Our vodka, Claremont Vodka, is distilled from potatoes sourced from New Jersey suppliers. We are also currently making two flavored vodkas: Claremont blueberry and Claremont peach. We wanted to produce flavors that were true to New Jersey with a New Jersey connection. Many people don’t realize that New Jersey is among the largest producers of both blueberries and peaches in the country. All of our flavored products are made with all natural ingredients. We never use anything artificial.
Our moonshine, Jersey Devil Moonshine, is an un-aged corn whiskey distilled from corn and malted barley. Our corn is sourced from New Jersey suppliers. Malted barley is the only ingredient we use that is not from New Jersey, as very limited quantities are available in the state. Our flavored moonshines, apple pie and Flaming Sinamon, are also made with nothing but all-natural ingredients.
Do you have a tasting room?
Yes, we do have a tasting room at our distillery. The tasting room is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday.
Any new products you’re working on?
We anticipate beginning production of bourbon and American whiskey in the very near future. We are actually awaiting delivery of our bourbon barrels, which should be in January 2016. We anticipate producing bourbon and a variety of American single malt whiskeys. This is an area where we believe we can be particularly creative in producing a number of unique, quality, craft spirits. We will also look to produce very limited quantities of seasonal vodka and moonshine products.
What is the best advice you have to share with young people interested in getting into the booze business?
Create quality products, have a lot of patience, and remain focused on your core business. Making spirits is not that difficult, as many moonshiners can attest. However, making quality products is much more of a challenge. There is a lot of trial and error [involved in] coming up with outstanding products. Sometimes you have to be willing to dispose of a ferment or distillation if the quality isn’t there. This is often a difficult decision for many craft distillers as every dollar counts and disposing of a product is burning cash. However, it’s imperative that you put out the best product every time, if you want to have a loyal following. One less-than-perfect batch of product reaching the market can result in the destruction of all the goodwill your brand previously created. Patience is also a virtue in this business. You are constantly dealing with red tape due to heavy government regulation. Whether it’s waiting on licensing, formula approval, or label approval, there’s little you can do other make sure you’ve filed everything correctly and wait. The last bit of advice is remain focused on your core business: producing great spirits. There are numerous revenue stream opportunities, such as tasting rooms, merchandise, and third-party contracting. However, without a great product these other opportunities are likely to be short lived.
It’s your last day on earth, where are you having that last cocktail?
In the Scottish Highlands. Incredible scenery with the largest concentration of the greatest whiskies made. What could be better?
Where can our readers find your products?
We are currently in approximately 50 retail accounts in the state and adding more every day. Readers can check our website to find the closest retailer to them.
Anything you’re working on that our readers should know about?
We are really excited to start making whiskey. We recently ordered another still to be used in our whiskey production and as mentioned earlier we are anxiously awaiting our bourbon barrels. Over the coming months we will be working on various whiskey formulations and starting first production. There will be a lot going on at the distillery during this time.
Photos courtesy of Claremont Distilled Spirits.
Claremont Distilled Spirits
Tasting Room Hours:
Monday through Saturday
12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
25 Commerce Road, Unit K