Dragonfyre Distillery sparks new spirits
November 26, 2016 By Tyrone Heppard, News
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Vince and Donna Pedini, proprietors of Dragonfyre Distillery, sit at the bar of the business at 1062 Leonard Road in Marathon.
MARATHON — Deep in the rolling hills just outside a small village, at the end of a winding dirt road near a pond next to an old hobbit hole, sits a tiny little tavern-like building where the tears of dragons are bottled and sold.
This is what Marathon residents Vince and Donna Pedini would have people believe when they invite visitors to come see their new business, the Dragonfyre Distillery at 1062 Leonard Road, during their grand opening this weekend.
Donna Pedini said she and her husband had been interested in starting a new smaller yet profitable business once she realized the market for her current business, selling brass stampings used for jewelry, was drying up.
“We wanted something to take us into our retirement,” she said. “The only thing that we could come up with that would actually … make a living at was the distillery because it’s this up-and-coming thing in New York.”
The passage of the state’s Farm Distillery Act in 2007, in an effort to boost the craft beverage industry, relaxed regulations and made it easier for people to make and sell alcoholic beverages made from ingredients grown in New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office reported in September that the number of farm distilleries in the state has grown exponentially over the last six years from 10 in 2010 to 95 in 2016.
So it was over a year ago when Vince Pedini said he considered turning the old family hobby into a new family business.
“My grandfather had this tiny little still he made on the Lehigh Valley Railroad,” he said. “It was this beautiful little spun-copper still. (He)… made wine and whiskey but he didn’t sell it. It was always made just for our own consumption.”
However, once the Pedinis invested in building the distillery on their property near Leonard Road, there was not much left over for actual equipment.
“We couldn’t afford to buy a ton of stuff,” Vince Pedini said. “I said well if we’re going to do this, we’re going to need a still that can produce more than a gallon of whiskey.”
That’s when Pedini said he decided to do what any self-respecting, third-generation distiller would do: he made his own equipment and hand-crafted both of the 100-gallon mash tubs, the steam injector need to cook the contents, and the 25-gallon copper still used to make his Dragon Moon Shine whiskey.
Pedini said first he grinds the corn he purchased from Willet with a small hand-cranked mill. He mixes the corn with yeast, enzymes and water to make mash in the tubs, yielding a truly artisanal product.
While the recipe is simple, Pedini said making the whiskey requires attention to detail and patience as it takes nearly the whole day for the small still to pump out a few gallons of product.
“Everything … is slow and tedious, but the results are very good,” he said.
As Vince perfected his corn whiskey recipe, Donna used her artistic talents to create an unusual identity and theme for the Dragonfyre Distillery.
From the hand-painted dragon head sconces hanging near the ceiling to the fairy doors and the cobblestone designs painted on the floor, the details will make guests feel like they have been transported to a tavern the likes of which are seen on the pages of a medieval fantasy novel.
Even the bathroom has been transformed into an enchanted forest where the trees and other mystical creatures seem to come to life on the walls.
“I’ve always loved fairies and all of that kind of stuff,” Donna Pedini said. “I love the outdoors and nature … (and) a lot of women like fairy stuff and dragon stuff. I wanted something for them to look at.”
The gift shop at the Dragonfyre Distillery features a number of hand-crafted gifts such as cloth gift bags, ornaments, note cards and other decorations and accessories made by Pedini and her mom, Nancy Focardi.
Vince Pedini said by next year, he would like to have at least a few different types of whiskey to sell and hopes to make a mark on the craft beverage industry by changing people’s expectations about what can be done with the spirit.
If all goes accordingly, Pedini said he plans to leave some Dragon Moon Shine in barrels with wood chips to make an aged Dragon Moon Shadow and he hopes to unveil “Scorched Earth” whiskey with a touch of apple in coming months.
For now, though, Vince and Donna Pedini are focused on setting the Dragonfyre Distillery apart from others by introducing people to what they see as a quality product while capturing people’s business and their imagination at the same time.
“It’s just a passion to make good whiskey,” Vince Pedini said. “If you’re going to do it, why not make it fun?”
A Marathon couple is hand crafting spirits from locally grown ingredients.
Dragonfyre Distillery opened in November near the Cortland County Town of Willet.
Vince and Donna Pedini built the distillery and tasting room which is decorated in a medieval, Olde English bard style.
Right now, they make Dragon Moon Shine which is a corn whiskey made of corn, water and yeast.
The corn comes from a farmer just down the road.
Vince says Dragon Moon Shine is some of the easiest drinking, smoothest corn whiskey you'll ever try.
"Corn whiskey is a little more difficult to make. It has a tendency to be harsh, or 'hot' they say. The people who have been tasting our whiskey are usually rather surprised at how pleasant it actually is," he said.
The Pedini's next plan to produce Dragon Moon Shadow which will be corn whiskey aged with oak which will give it the color and flavor of a bourbon style whiskey.
Dragonfyre Distillery is open Friday 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday Noon to 5 p.m.
For more info and directions, go to DragonFyreDistillery.com.
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Dragonfyre Distillery: Creating a destination distillery
by Michael Wren
Dragonfyre Distillery came to be when husband and wife team Vince and Donna Pedini began looking for a business they could start in retirement to stay busy and have fun. Having made their own beer and wine for years, whiskey became the next logical conquest. However, Vince and Donna didn’t want just another run of the mill distillery, they wanted to make it a destination whiskey (and dragon) lovers from all over could come to enjoy the atmosphere and of course the whiskey. Almost everything in the distillery is handcrafted by either Vince or Donna which makes for a truly one of a kind experience.
Donna loves crafting and did all of the paintings inside while Vince did the interior work, including building the bars as well as making the copper still and mash tuns. The handmade bar, still and whiskey give the distillery a truly handcrafted spirit.
Dragonfyre’s target market is “anybody that enjoys a good, smooth, quality whiskey,” which is exactly what they produce in their clear Dragon Moon Shine and their darker Dragon Moon Shadow. As Vince says, “I like to drink products that can be consumed without dilution or alteration,” and as such recommends drinking these whiskeys neat. However, their website also contains drink recipes which make great use of their whiskey.
Dragonfyre Distillery is a New York State Farm Distillery and uses 100 percent locally grown corn from a nearby farmer. The 25-gallon still Vince crafted makes about 60 bottles at a time. Vince likes the smaller setup for now but has plans to expand to a larger still and a wider variety of whiskies.
The Pedini’s held their grand opening in November of 2016. The small distillery, which is a little off the beaten path was flooded with people looking to show support for the new distillery and enjoy a great whiskey.
As anyone who has been to the distillery can tell you, it is a very unique destination. From the hand-painted cobblestone floors and large suits of armor with dragons perched atop to the handmade enchanted fairy forest in the bathroom, this location is more than just a place to buy whiskey. With a small hobbit hole outside and medieval style doors inside the Pedini’s have created a whole new world in which to experience their spirits.Making a great whiskey is a great start but putting in the time and effort to make it a special destination will surely keep customers coming back time and time again.
Whiskey Slushies from Dragonfyre Distillery in Marathon, Cortland County, made with its Dragon Moon Shine. Left is Prohibition Moon, with pineapple and grenadine; at right is Blueberry Pomegranate. (Dragonfyre Distillery)
Don Cazentre | firstname.lastname@example.org By Don Cazentre | email@example.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 03, 2017 at 8:30 AM
MARATHON, NY -- When you're running a small, boutique whiskey distillery in "the middle of nowhere," as the owner calls it, you need to do some things that call attention to your business.
Owners Vince and Donna Pedini at Dragonfyre Distillery in Marathon, Cortland County. The distillery is offering Whiskey Slushies this summer.
For Vince and Donna Pedini at Dragonfyre Distillery in Cortland County, those things include the whiskey slushy.
Make no mistake: Vince Pedini, the distiller, is serious about whiskey. But making the whiskey slushy -- a hard liquor cousin to the more famous wine slushy -- fits well with the whimsical theme of the distillery.
"It's fun and refreshing," Vince Pedini said. "And it's definitely tasty."
Dragonfyre, at 1062 Leonard Road just outside the village of Marathon, opened in November, 2016. Vince Pedini acknowledges the location, about four miles from Interstate 81, is a little remote.
"Moonshine" slushies are sold at the Clayton Distillery in the Thousand Islands.
He's aware of at least one other Upstate New York distiller offering wine slushies -- Clayton Distillery in the Thousand Islands. That's where he got the idea to try the frozen mix of whiskey, juice and ice.
"For them (Clayton Distillery), they're in a touristy area where a lot of visitors come through," Pedini said. "For us, it has to be a destination. There's not much else out here to see. But Mike (Aubertine, Clayton's owner) said the machine paid for itself in a month."
Making Dragonfyre a destination starts with the decor, designed by Donna. It's filled with depictions of dragons, fairies and knights in armor. There are nods to "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and to "The Lord of the Rings," including a hobbit hole near the entrance. The dragon theme has another reference: Cortland State's mascot is the Red Dragon.
Vince Pedini not only makes the spirits, he built the still. It's a 25-gallon copper "reflux' still. It takes a lot of time, effort and patience -- and makes just 60 bottles or so at a time.
Two whiskeys from Dragonfyre Distillery in Marathon, Cortland County: Moon Shine and Moon Shadow.
He currently makes two whiskies: Dragon Moon Shine and Dragon Moon Shadow. The Moon Shine is a classic, corn-based, clear and unaged whiskey. Moon Shadow is the same, except its steeped in steel tanks with oak chips for a little color and bolder flavor.
Next up for Pedini is a brandy he's calling Scorched Orchard. It is a spirit distilled from apple wine (which is itself made from local apples).
He's also making a new whiskey, using the grains found in bourbon (a minimum of 51 percent corn, plus some barley and other grains). It, too, will be aged in steel tank and flavored with oak chips.
He can't call that a bourbon because, by law, bourbon must be aged in new charred oak barrels. But he's working on it: He has some barrels on order from the Adirondack Barrel Cooperage in Remsen, north of Utica. Then he'll be able to age some real bourbon.
For the whiskey slushies, Dragonfyre experimented with a few flavors, and came up with two, both made with the Moon Shine as a base. One is Blueberry Pomegranate, and the other is called Prohibition Moon, made with pineapple juice and grenadine.
The whiskey and the juices are mixed in the slushy machine with ice (about 3 parts juice to liquor), creating the cold frozen concoction. The whiskey itself is 80 proof (40 percent alcohol), but Pedini isn't exactly certain of the alcohol content of the slushy.
Customers in the tasting room at Dragonfyre Distillery in Marathon, Cortland County Dragonfyre Distillery
"You can taste it (the alcohol), but it's light," Pedini said. Dragonfyre is also selling the juice mix, along with the whiskey, so people can make them at home (instructions for doing it without a machine are included).
For now, Dragonfyre's spirits are sold out of its tasting room and at two other outlets: Peak Wine & Spirits in Marathon and the Balsam Inn at 866 County Highway 10 East Pharsalia, New York, NY. Tasting room hours are 3 to 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tours on other days by appointment. Call 607-849-9600.
Don Cazentre writes about craft beer, wine, spirits and beverages for NYup.com, syracuse.com and The Post-Standard. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at NYup.com, on Twitter or Facebook.
1062 Leonard Road Marathon, NY 13803US
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