[Author’s Note: Legacy Distilling will open for business under the name Painted Stave Distilling]
For most people in Delaware, April 26th came and went with little notice or fanfare. That however, was not the case for Ron Gomes and Mike Rasmussen. For them, April 26th was a very important date because the Delaware House of Representatives was voting on Senate Bill # 180 w/SA 1 which if passed, would make the owning and operation of stand alone distilleries legal for the first time in the state of Delaware. That was very important to Ron and Mike, because as co-owners of Legacy Distilling, they wanted to be the first to take advantage of this new law.
Having met in 2011, Ron and Mike quickly developed a bond over their love for quality spirits they had experienced such as Ransom’s Old Tom Gin, Bluecoat Gin, whiskey from Tuthilltown and brandies from Clear Creek; as well as other distilleries such as Smooth Ambler, Coursair, Fingerlakes Distilling, Harvest and others. It wasn’t long after that the seeds for Legacy Distilling were planted.
But while the passing of Senate Bill #180 was a first, large hurtle, others were to follow. Even before the Governor put his signature on the new law, they were looking around for suitable locations, finally settling on Smyrna. Ron and Mike met before the town council to answer concerns raised by locals as well as to apply for waivers as a new business. Able to adequately respond to everyone’s concerns the council vote unanimously to approve.
Although the signed law allows a distillery to produce up to 750,000 gallons a year, Mike conceded in a recent email conversation that their short term goal is a little smaller. “Our goals are to make and sell about 3,000 cases (12 x 750ml bottles) by year two, 4,000 by year three and 5,000 by year 5,” he said. “The distillery will have a total capacity of about 10,000 cases, running 2 shifts a day, 5 days a week.”
Their initial offerings will be gin and vodka, with barrel aged whiskey and brandy coming later, available at both the distillery location and local liquor stores. But Mike was quick to point out that there is more to spirits than just the norm. “There are some interesting products, like hopped and smoked whiskey that we really like too. In general there are lots of interesting ways you can make spirits, either through unique recipes, aging techniques, and/or blending and flavoring that we plan to experiment with,” he stated. They also have plans to do small experimental batches of different seasonal offerings that will have very limited distribution -possibly available only at the distillery.
All of their products will be produced with an eye towards local sourcing, “Our goal is to source as much of our raw materials as possible from local farms. We have spoken with a few farms about availability and feel that we will be able to find most of our grains (wheat, corn, rye and barley) as well as other flavorings that we can use in crafting unique spirits.” Mike hopes that the sourcing can go both ways, and that the same local farmers will be able to take their spent grain and use it as compost or livestock feed.
While local sourcing is great for the community farms that surround Smyrna, Mike does admit that it hampers their ability to make one potential product. “Rum would be hard to do based on our priority for using local raw materials,” he stated when I asked him about my favorite distilled liquor. “But we have a couple ideas that we are investigating so we are not going to rule it out.”
Besides their association with local farmers, Ron and Mike are actively looking at other ways to support the local community that has accepted them into their fold. “We want our distillery to be an open place. We plan to host regular tours and tastings, as well as eventually open for bottling parties, distilling workshops, special events, etc. We also want to do whatever we can to showcase local artisans, so we hope to have space where we can help promote local artists and sell local goods that are in line with our core beliefs.” But it doesn’t just stop there. “Another thing Ron and I are both passionate about is science and science education,” he continued. “Because of that, we plan on donating a portion of our profits to promote science education.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Ron and Mike at the recent Hogs and Hops event at Fordham and their passion really shows. I look forward to watching them get their dream off the ground, and thank Mike for giving me some of his valuable time. You can find the Legacy Distilling tent at Sheridan’s Pub for their Halfway To St. Patrick’s Day block-party on September 22, and The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival on October 21.