Two friends open Albany's first distillery since Prohibition

Reported by: Katherine Underwood

Videographer: G. Finley
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Updated: 10/05/2012 6:23 pm
You can certainly order your favorite locally-brewed beer at the bar, but it's been almost a century since you could find a local spirit on the shelves.

Two years ago, two young entrepreneurs decided to change that.

On Friday, John Curtin and Matthew Jager officially opened the Albany Distilling Company in Quackenbush Square, the city's first distillery since the Prohibition Era.

“It feels great, it’s a very generic term, but it's surreal,” Curtin said.

Two years ago, the two men took their idea to the Chamber of Commerce, got through the red tape, transformed a historical building, and finally, using all New York-grown grains, started distilling.

“We collect the whiskey right here at the end of the condenser,” said Jager.

Albany Distilling Company's first product is the Coal Yard New Make Whiskey.

“We call our product ‘Coal Yard’ because this is actually the former coal yard for the pump station,” Curtin told us.

Local residents were eager to give it a try.

“Oh it’s wonderful, it’s smooth,” said East Greenbush resident Joe Kuehn.

“As far as a white whiskey goes, this is surely one of the better ones I have had, especially for small craft distillery, it’s outstanding,” said whiskey connoisseur Tom Morgan of Albany.

“I don't think I have ever had whiskey at 11 o'clock in the morning,” laughed Debbie Main, Jager’s Aunt. “It’s happening today and it’s okay.”

Many business owners have already signed on to sell Coal Yard Whiskey.

“Today we purchased five bottles,” said Tess Collins, co-owner of McGeary's in downtown Albany.

“It will be at McGeary's everyday,” she said. “We're going to push it right over the bar.”

Albany restaurant owners are eager to put the local spirit behind the counter.

Curtin says those signed on to carry Coal Yard are the Pump Station, The Olde English Pub and Pantry, McGeary's, DP: An American Brasserie,  New World Bistro, Mingle, and Excelsior.

After Friday’s tasting, local residents are excited to enjoy a homegrown whiskey.

“I think their success is going to be amazing,” Morgan said. “I mean, look at the turnout here today.”

And as far as the distilling partners, Curtin and Jager say they just finished bottling the whiskey Thursday night and plan to hit the ground running this weekend.

“I am really looking forward to taking that stuff, going out, hitting the streets in next few days, and bringing it to the people we have been promising it to,” Jager said.

The Albany Distilling Company will have an aged bourbon available in December called, “Iron Weed.”

The Coal Yard Whiskey will run you $31 for a 750ml bottle.

The distillery will be open from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and by appointment starting next week.

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