Maine craft distilling
Like pretty much anyone who started learning distillation five to eight years ago, there wasn’t much information available out there, let alone any sort of training. So, the only possible way to learn was to read anything we could get our hands on, try what we legally (or not) could do and spend our weekends travelling to visit as many distilleries as humanly possible and to submerge the owners with questions. One of those trips led me to Portland-Maine in a relatively new distillery, five years ago. Luke Davidson welcomed me with open arms in an old industrial building where he set up his distillery the best he could. The guy is truly passionate about everything distillation, in addition to being a very curious mind. We started talking and when I told him I wanted to get into the distilling industry, he decided to show me around.
Craft is no joke for Luke and he strives to do things right. Fermentations are done in wooden open fermenters that he built himself with the help of a carpenter friend; it was a real pain but totally worth it. The thing you need to know about wood and open fermenters is that wood is porous so yeast (that transforms sugar into alcohol) lives in the wood and creates a lasting living pool that goes from one batch to the next and helps with flavor profile consistency. Open fermenters allows for outside bacterias to get into the fermentation process and to contaminate it. Most distilleries don’t want any contamination and would rather control the fermentation to ensure that every batch is the same. Contamination creates a more acidic fermentation which results in higher Esther (flavor compounds) releases during distillation. That’s the kind of attention Luke loves to give to his spirits.
He moved two years ago to a new location, closer to downtown, surrounded by a thriving community of breweries, distilleries and restaurants. He took this opportunity to build (by himself) his new stills; they are all stainless stills and are his own design, that’s what experience allows you to do! They are the result of a remarkable work of art because he is a real artist and it shows in his marketing too. It’s a rare thing to witness a brilliant distiller with a killer marketing instinct! Everything he does is on point: branding, marketing, storytelling and product quality!
Talking about quality products, I’m amongst the few lucky ones who get the chance to visit his backstore and taste a few of his ongoing new products. Last week, I had the pleasure to taste something really unique; he’s been aging a specific spirit for some time now and it was outstanding! I won’t reveal too much so he can keep the scoop, but what I can say is it tasted like sweet warm butter and then turned into sweet strawberries after ten minutes, absolutely magnificent and all this without any additive! Fantastic work!
Portland is so worth the trip, not only for its distilleries and breweries, but also for its thriving restaurant scene! Make sure to plan a weekend getaway there if you haven’t already.