Finger Lakes Distilling, in upstate New York, is another one of the new small distilleries I admire because they make honest products by traditional methods and tell the truth about them.
Here are a few of the other ways they set a good example for other small distillers.
Think local: Finger Lakes products are sold at the distillery and at liquor stores throughout New York state. This can be frustrating for enthusiasts in the rest of the country who would like to try the Finger Lakes products but it is smart business for a small distiller to concentrate on the local market and not get spread too thin.
Keep it interesting: Make a lot of different products? Or concentrate on one or a few? Either strategy can be successful. Finger Lakes likes to keep it interesting by trying different things: bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey, wheat whiskey and corn whiskey, but also fruit spirits including Gewurztraminer Grappa.
Involve and educate your customers: Finger Lakes sells a white dog version of their rye whiskey along with a 2-liter lightly charred barrel so the customer can age it at home. The kit, which includes the barrel and two liters of white dog, is $99. In another form of customer involvement, they encourage customers to send in recipes using their products and if they publish a recipe you submit, you win a t-shirt or hat.
Support other local businesses. If you’re going to have a gift shop anyway, stock it with your own products as well as good products from other compatible local artisans. Finger Lakes sells pickles brined with whiskey, also fennel beets, chipotle carrots, and lavender asparagus. They sell locally-made peanut brittle and locally-made granite cheeseboards too.
Communicate. Finger Lakes has a web site, of course, but also a blog and an email newsletter which they fill with news about new products, product availability, events at the distillery, recipes and other useful information, and not with silly stories and other made up crap.