Potent History Comes Full Circle at Dutch’s Spirits | Craft Beverage Industry | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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Potent History Comes Full Circle at Dutch’s Spirits

From Mobster Moonshine Operation to Above-Board Distillery

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Last Updated: 09/14/2020 1:10 pm
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On October 10, 1932, the FBI descended on a secluded, pretty spot in quiet Pine Plains. The innocently named Harvest Homestead Farm was a cover for what might’ve been the most impressive operation of the entire bootlegging era. Owned by mobster Dutch Schultz, the property encompassed a warren of underground tunnels and bunkers where the Feds found two 2,000-gallon stills and 10,000 pounds of sugar.

On September 12, 88 years later, the property will at last open to the public, legally, as Dutch’s Spirits, and carefree guests at Harvest Homestead Farm will openly toast with an updated version of moonshine. If there’s an afterlife, surely that enigmatic gangster Dutch Schultz is grinning somewhere.

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“The operation was only open for a year before the raid, but it was breathtaking in scope,” says owner Branden McAlpine says. “No living person knows the full extent of the tunnel system—I’m itching to get a remote control vehicle with a camera in there. The guys that worked for Dutch never had to see daylight and he didn’t want anyone seeing them. I don’t think there’s anything quite like this anywhere else on the continent.” (El Chapo might give ol’ Dutch a run for his money.)

The 400-acre farm is laced with OG mystique to uncover and cultivate—and McAlpine is obsessed. The previous owner, Ariel Schlein, had done some restoration and renovation on the property and built the current distillery. McAlpine knew he’d come across a potential tourism gem—prime real estate and a killer backstory (ha).

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“I’m a history nerd,” MacAlpine confides. “The first time I turned in the driveway, in 2017, I knew I had to take this on. The building, the layout, the potential just grabbed me.” His resume is well-suited to the task. With his family, he helped turn the Roundhouse Beacon from defunct factory to historic boutique hotel with fine dining. “With the advent of legal farm distilleries and the emergence of the Hudson Valley as a craft beverage, foodie and vacation destination—the Napa of the East Coast—this is definitely our moment,” he says.

The first label from the new stills at the farm-to-bottle distillery will be an homage to one of Shultz's 1932 recipes, updated for modern palates. Dutch's Sugar Wash Shine, made with raw turbinado sugar, is an 80-proof  liquor that can sub in for light rum or even vodka. “It’s not what most people would associate with moonshine,” says McAlpine. “It’s not rocket fuel. It’s very drinkable on its own.” The nose bears aromas of cut grass and rich butterscotch. Succulent vanilla and grapefruit notes envelop the mouth and a medley of tropical fruit and maple flavors linger in a pleasantly long and smooth finish.

Sugar Wash Shine will be have limited distribution starting this fall. "People want something that’s connected to history, and a product that celebrates a sense of place,” McAlpine says. “It's inspiration of the past plus the distilling techniques of today that make Dutch’s so special.”

When the distillery gets up and running more labels will follow, including an Empire Rye made with New York State grain. Celebrity cocktail bartender Lynnette Marrerro (of Speed Rack) and Jessica Gonzalez are helming the beverage program at the onsite tasting room and will also be the minds behind a future line of ready-to-drink cocktails. Whenever possible, the recipes will be made with the bounty of the surrounding region. “When you’re distilling in the Hudson Valley, you never have to look far to find inspiration or great ingredients,” says McAlpine.  

Starting Saturday September 12, an outdoor tasting room be open to the public on weekends, 12-7pm, pouring Dutch's own plus local craft beer, wine, and spirits. NY produced beer, wine and craft spirits. The farm will host a rotating slate of food trucks, kicking off with artisanal pizzas from Embers Wood-Fired Oven.
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Down the road, McAlpine envisions a farm-to-table restaurant onsite, possibly even museum in the underground bunker, and onsite events like outdoor movie nights. “Wait’ll you see what we can do with this,” he says. You’ll be able to tour the very tunnels raided by those long-ago Feds, and this summer, watch for live music and movies outdoors. 

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