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New York Helping Small Distilleries

The United States has a long history of making whiskey -- a kind of alcohol. Many people across the country made the drink before the age of Prohibition. Prohibition was a 13-year period in the early 20th century when the government banned people from producing and selling alcoholic drinks.

The government ended Prohibition in the early 1930s. Now, over 80 years later, the state of New York has eased its rules and even taken steps to support people who want to make whiskey. Businesses called distilleries manufacture and sell alcoholic products. Some distillers have set up operations in New York City. And they are using crops from New York area farms.

Any cocktail -- an alcoholic mixed drink -- starts with a great spirit, like the gin and rye whiskey from the New York Distilling Company. That is the opinion of Allen Katz, who set up the company.

“Finally, after 80 years post-Prohibition, we are reclaiming our taste buds in many ways.”

The New York state government has made it legal for small distillers not only to operate, but also to sell their products and have tasting rooms. Mr. Katz’s New York Distilling Company is one of more than 30 manufacturers in the state.

“It’s absolutely, resoundingly a win for us and for the New York Distilling Company because it allows us to enter the marketplace at a more reasonable cost to set up a business like this from scratch.”

Nationwide, the number of small or craft distillers has grown from 250 in 2009 to over 700 today. A trade group, the Distilled Spirit Council of the United States, says small distillers earned more than $400 million from sales and services last year.

Bill Potter is the head distiller for the New York Distilling Company. He says New York rye has been used in local alcohol for centuries.

“…the oldest distillery in North America was actually on Staten Island. It was a Dutch distillery there in 1640.”

Another business, Breuckelen Distilling, works with local farmers to create a regional flavor – a taste found only in the New York area. It and other companies operate under a specialty Farmer’s Distillery License. The license requires at least 71 percent of local grains in the products they make.

Brad Estabrook set up Breuckelen Distilling.

“…we’ve been working with the same farmer since we started, and we did the first distillation in 2010.”

He says small-batch spirits are successful because people care where their drink comes from and who makes it. The public’s interest in local products is part of what he considers the hostile reaction to large international manufacturers.

Daniela Schrier reported on this story from New York. George Grow adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

spiritn. an alcoholic drink

absolutely – adv. with no restrictions or limits

resoundingly – adv. completely or totally

from scratch – phrase from the very beginning

regional flavor – n. local taste

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