Dutch’s Spirits Revives A Clandestine Distillery
By Jamie Larson
We love letting you in on a good secret, and Dutch’s Spirits at Harvest Homestead Farm in Pine Plains, New York won’t be one for long. While it’s only just getting started, Dutch’s has a lot going on. It’s a farm stand, historic prohibition-era bootlegging site, an event venue, tasting bar and a place to try and buy every type of booze made in New York State. And it’s all housed in a beautiful new barn overlooking rolling hills that are popping with fall colors.
What’s impressive about Dutch’s right now is that even though it won’t be fully operational until next year (it’s still distilling its celebrated brand of liquor and bitters off-site and waiting patiently for its beer and wine, and food service license), there’s already an experience to be had. That’s in part due to the well-regarded line of Sugar Wash Moonshine, created by co-founders Alex Adams and Ariel Schlein in 2010 — but it’s also because of the intriguing secret history of the company’s namesake Dutch Schultz.
“He told people he was building a pool to justify all the concrete he was bringing onto the farm,” says Teri Wamsley, Dutch’s operations manager. “The reason our moonshine is so wonderful is because it’s an extension of the history of the farm.”
Down a set of stairs from the tasting room is a massive concrete subterranean grotto where Schultz’s crew made his moonshine. There’s also a series of tunnels exiting the site out to the road. Those tunnels were put to use by Dutch’s bootleggers when the feds raided the operation on October 17, 1932. Schultz was eventually brought down by that old mobster foil — tax evasion — but he gets the last laugh as generations later his name is branded across bottles sold right upstairs.
Dutch’s cofounder Ariel Schlein channels bootlegger Dutch Shultz, in the portrait behind him.
The crew at Dutch’s has leaned into their founder’s shady past. Their branding plays on the look and feel of 20s-era gangsters and their signature moonshine is how they think the boss himself would have made it, a straight 80 proof cane sugar neutral spirit. It’s got a nice clean, high-quality burn and is really useful as the backbone of just about any cocktail.
Dutch’s also makes cocktail bitters and a brandy using New York peaches. The alcohol is the forward experience as it hits your mouth and then the subtle peach sweetness and full fruit flavor develops on the back of the tongue. The flavor is understated in just the right way.
The historic secret distillery site beneath the barn.
While the brandy as well as their strong (120 proof) but excellent bourbon are momentarily sold out among retail locations (Dutch’s says they’ll have a new batch ready for the holidays), the one place you can always try them is at the farm, along with the other great New York options they showcase, including local favorites like Harvest Spirits and Hillrock.
But it’s not just about the booze; the operational farm and farm stand has been hosting family- friendly events since the soft open of the location in July. Now, with leaf colors nearing their peak, it’s an excellent afternoon stop.
We expect we will be hearing a lot more about Dutch’s in the coming years as the operation expands to its full capacity, but its current form is well worth a visit, especially to see the evidence of its Prohibition-era past.
Somewhere, Dutch Shultz’s spirit is looking down (or, lets face it, probably up) and smiling at the young group of legal bootleggers continuing his legacy, out of the shadows and above ground.
Harvest Homestead Farm
98 Ryan Rd., Pine Plains, NY
Open to the public
Thursday through Saturday 12-5 p.m.