Blog update: You can now find Martha’s Vineyard Distilling Company at a number of Island restaurants and package stores.
Once I heard that there was a distillery on the Island, I was super excited. Hello, our sister Island Nantucket has had one for a while, and chances are that our spirits will be even better. All kidding aside, the prospect is cool.
So, I arranged a meeting, not asking who was actually behind this venture. Imagine my surprise when I walked into Mocha Motts in Vineyard Haven, and there sat my daughter’s eye doctor, Ryan Shea. I don’t know why, but I found this really funny. Sometimes people you know have the most interesting hobbies.
Martha’s Vineyard Distilling Company has been in the works for over two years. Ryan and his childhood friend, Nick Peters (contractor by day), both from the Island, were talking one day while Nick was doing work on Ryan’s house. Ryan had mentioned that he wanted to start making spirits on the Island. Nick had been thinking about it too. A partnership was formed.
Ryan had visited the Jameson distillery when he was a young adult and was so intrigued by the process. He calls himself a “science dork,” and making spirits is one part science, and one part alchemy, with the potential for some delicious and enjoyable results. He was so interested, that he went to Washington to learn the craft of distilling.
Nick had visited one of the distilleries in Jamaica, and there he became intrigued by the process, and the idea of creating his own alcoholic concoctions.
If you make your own spirits, it’s illegal. Hello moonshine. However, you can — with a lot of homework and patience — start a business making spirits. For a year and a half, Ryan and Nick have been working on the federal and state permitting for the business.
It’s been an arduous process to say the least. The challenge is you have to basically be set to start even before you can get your license, so the distillery, which is located in Vineyard Haven, was just waiting for some action. Nick and Ryan just had to sit and wait.
Luckily for these guys, the feds and the state finalized all the necessary approvals two weeks ago. What does that mean for us? Well, come Memorial Day weekend 2016, Martha’s Vineyard will have vodka and gin available that was made here on Island.
What’s really nice about Martha’s Vineyard Distilling Company is that the spirits are made here. Ryan and Nick use local ingredients when possible, which is easier for somethings, like gin. With gin, which is made with juniper berries, you can add to it.
Think local herbs that you might find in your garden, like lavender. Perhaps a little local honey, there are endless possibilities. Once you’ve got the science down — the base recipe — you can really get creative.
It’s the creative aspect that is also going to really enable these spirits to stand out. With small batch, handcrafted spirits, you can make some really special, even limited edition flavors. You can create seasonal flavors, offer things that appeal to smaller audiences, in addition to your main stream line.
Also, for Nick and Ryan, it is crucial that each batch, each bottle, represents the quality and time put into crafting these liquors. They’re creating something to be proud of. This business is not about the desire to make bank, but rather the desire to have fun and create something amazing that people will enjoy. The fact that it is certain to be a success is an added bonus for these friends.
Not into vodka or gin? Not to worry, there are more varieties to come. Whiskey takes a lot longer. It has to be aged, and a rum recipe is in the works too. For the rum, they already have the name, Widow’s Walk Rum. The name and label (which I cannot share sadly) pays homage to the Vineyard’s whaling history. Of course, I’d want to drink this over Kraken Rum!
When do an eye doctor and a contractor have time to do all this? Nights and weekends are for the spirits. Luckily, the fermentation process is what takes the longest. However, I think these two are going to keep busy with the alchemy of creating new and exciting things for their new Martha’s Vineyard brand.
Martha’s Vineyard Distilling Company will be available at select restaurants this Summer. Nick and Ryan plan to grow the business at a rate that allows them to continue to create and distribute a quality product. Small batch spirits require a little extra TLC.
I look forward to the follow-up blog about these locally made spirits. A little birdie told me that there might be a launch party in June which I hope to attend. Then, we can really discuss the spirits these two Island boys are making. I love this place. You have a dream, something you enjoy doing — you can do it here!
The Martha’s Vineyard Distilling Company’s website is being developed. In the meantime, you can find out all the latest happenings on its Facebook page. And speaking of social media, don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Linked In, Google+, Pinterest and Youtube.
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