Naturally, as apple lovers, surrounded by apple orchards, our spirits are made from apples. New York is the second largest apple producer in the United States, home to more than 700 apple orchards.
The apples that go into our products are all harvested from local orchards producing the state’s signature sweet apples like Spy Gold, Cortland, Kingston Black, and Liberty. The more varieties, the better. Each varietal has a different tannin profile and the tannins are critical to the quality of the final product.
After the apples are pressed we add champagne yeast. This step initiates the fermentation process, converting the fruit sugars into alcohol to produce hard cider. With apples, fermentation takes at least three times longer than with grains.
For Upstate vodka, using 16 and 18 plate, 2-column stills, the hard cider is distilled only twice. We keep the number of distillations to a minimum to retain the natural essence of our ingredients. With distillation, more does not always equal better, as each distillation can strip away more of the original character of a spirit. The heads, containing an unpleasant tasting alcohol, are removed and the tails containing lower, undesirable alcohols are also removed. Between the two, our Master Distiller expertly selects the coveted heart —190 proof pure distilled apples — which is blended down to 80 proof with local, spring-fed water and then bottled by hand.
Each batch is numbered and sampled by our Head Distiller, Ken Wortz. It only gets bottled if it meets his standards.