Dragonfyre Distillery sparks new spirits

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 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.”

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 local farms with a small 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 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 Orchard” apple brandy 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?”

News Channel 34 Interview 1/20/2017

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.

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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. and

Whiskey slushie on Dragonfyre Distilleries bar top

What an Upstate New York summer needs: The Whiskey Slushy

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)
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Don Cazentre | By Don Cazentre |
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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.

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.

He’s aware of at least one other Upstate New York distiller offering whiskey slushies — Clayton Distillery in the Thousand Islands. That’s where he got the idea to try the frozen mix of whiskey, juice and ice. “Moonshine” slushies are sold at the Clayton Distillery in the Thousand Islands.
“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 few months.”
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.
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.

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

Don  Cazentre writes about craft beer, wine, spirits and beverages for, and The Post-Standard. Reach him at, or follow him at, on Twitter or Facebook.

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