From Hobby to Business: Great Notch Distillery

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Great Notch Distillery is the first distiller in Bergen County since before the prohibition! But the most interesting part about it is how it all began. Randy Pratt – founder of Great Notch Distillery in Wyckoff, New Jersey – always had a deep fascination for distilling. Originally, Pratt was an educator for 28 years teaching and administrating in various locations in New Jersey. His interest in distilling led him to visit many distillers throughout New York to find out more. Along with his attendance in New York, Pratt traveled up and down the east coast, down to the south and into the Midwest visiting distilleries. In Pratt’s own words “I got hooked.” Pratt also participated in the Artisan Distilling Program at Michigan State University.

Originally, Pratt was looking for a location to open a distillery in New York. However, the laws changed in New Jersey in 2013 and he switched gears to a New Jersey location. The laws changing was only the beginning of the many hoops Pratt had to jump through to get his business up and running. In order to own a distillery in Bergen County, Pratt needed to apply for a federal permit and to the New Jersey State Alcohol Beverage Control. However, before Pratt could even do any of this, he had to find a location for his distillery first. From Pratt’s own words, it was a “very long and tedious process.” Pratt also said it was an expensive process. Before the federal government can grant you a permit, you must have all of the equipment in place at the distillery.

Throughout all of this, Pratt still had to figure out what his products were going to be! A simple trial and error method was used to create the four current products: Gin, Vodka and two types of Whiskey. Pratt started with samples of gin. He tested his samples on family and friends and from there was able to narrow it down to his ten botanicals gin. The gin has a more floral and citrus taste and less of a juniper flavor. Pratt considers his vodka to be better straight rather than on the rocks or mixed. His two whiskeys include a wheat whiskey and an unaged corn whiskey moonshine that Pratt describes as a very smooth whiskey that wont burn your lungs. The corn used to make the whiskey comes from a farmer in Warren County. Most of Pratt’s other ingredients come from various locations in New Jersey. However, during last year’s tough winter, he was forced to use ingredients from outside of the state.

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Pratt is very proud to be representing as the first distiller in Bergen County. He does everything for the distillery including sales, paperwork and the actual distilling. Of course, Pratt would not be as successful if it weren’t for the help of his friends and family with bottling and labeling the alcohol. Thanks to Abmas Farm in Wycoff, Pratt is able to stay green while distilling his liquors.

A fifth product – flavored whiskey – is due to come out sometime around October or November. For all of the current products, and local stores selling Great Notch products,visit the Great Notch website for more information.

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