New York's Only Single Malt Whisky Distillery Is a Train Ride Away From Grand Central

When you think of American whisky, upstate New York is most certainly not the first place that comes to mind. But in Amenia, New York, just a few miles from the Connecticut border, Tenmile Distillery is making ultra-smooth vodka, award-winning gin, and Little Rest, a new, masterfully crafted single malt whisky made with 100% New York State-grown barley. 

The distillery is a one-minute walk from Tenmile River, a train station which connects to Grand Central in New York City, making for an easy, car-free day trip from the city. Tenmile Distillery operates out of a former farm that was designed by renowned architect Allan Shope, who is obsessed with creating spaces that interact in interesting and sustainable ways with the environment. For example, he built a home on the property that was nestled underneath a cliff, where three sides of the home are underground, providing built-in insulation and enough sun exposure for tactfully placed solar panels which power the eco-home. 

Tenmile Distillery bar and tasting room
In 2017, wine and spirits industry veteran John Dyson purchased the property with his son-in-law Joel LeVangia, who now serves as Tenmile’s General Manager. While Dyson and LeVangia share a lifelong interest in spirits and both happen to be from upstate New York region, they set Tenmile up for greatness by bringing in Scottish master distiller Shane Fraser, who is the only master distiller currently working in the United States. Over his 30-year career in whisky, Fraser built his pedigree by working with the likes of Royal Lochnagar, Oban, Glenfarclas, and most recently, a Scottish whisky called Wolfburn. “We’re the only distillery in the US who managed to get someone from Scotland who really knows what they’re doing,” LeVangia told me during my visit. 

Dyson outfitted Tenmile’s former dairy barn with custom copper stills (the large vessels used during distillation) designed by Scottish manufacturer Forsyths, and piece by piece, a distillery quickly took form. With help from the distillery's team, Dyson worked to design equipment that was ultra-functional, but also looked totally stunning since the distillation process is totally transparent at Tenmile — literally, the distillery’s equipment is behind large glass windows right when you enter, entirely out for display and exploration. The massive copper stills curve in fascinating ways, and the longer you look, the more details you’ll notice. But it’s not all about looks, explains Fraser. “The curves in the still will control the reflux; the shape impacts how the condensation moves throughout the still and reintegrates with the spirit,” he says.

Vesper cocktail at Tenmile Distillery made with their Listening Rock gin and Sinpatch vodka, paired with house vermouth
Little Rest, the distillery’s new single malt whisky, is made more slowly and in smaller batches than most whiskies on the market. Their Scottish-style single malt starts with barley grown in New York State, mostly within a 30-mile radius of Tenmile. After mashing and cooking, Fraser does 7-day fermentation on the clear wort — almost three times longer than most Scotch. “Since we don’t have the same bottle minimums as some of the larger distilleries, we are able to actually give the whisky as much time as it needs,” explains Fraser. The near 160 hour fermentation brings depth and richness to the spirit. After distillation, the whisky ages for three years in barrels in Tenmile’s Scottish style cask barns. Since this is the team’s first release, they are continuing to experiment with different barrels including sherry casks and barrels from Dyson’s California winery, William Selyem. The 4,000 bottles produced in this first release are being sold via Tenmile’s whisky list and at the distillery itself. 

For all of their spirits, nearly all of the ingredients Tenmile uses are grown locally in New York state except for the yeast used in their whisky and a few of the botanicals for their gin — they ship organic Meyer lemons from Santa Barbara to give their gin their gin its signature citrusy aroma. To dive even further into an exploration of upstate New York’s unique terroir, Tenmile is making plans to plant barley on-premise to use in the whisky, and are harvesting as many botanicals from their land as possible. The estate’s former owner Allan Shope even planted an heirloom apple orchard on the property, which Fraser and LeVangia hope to harvest from for Calvados or to infuse in the gin in the future. 

A dish from Westerly Canteen at Tenmile Distillery
The same commitment to local sourcing is apparent on the menu at Westerly Canteen, a truly spectacular restaurant which serves dinner at Tenmile on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, in addition to weekend lunches from mid-April through Thanksgiving. In this refurbished airstream turned restaurant, Chez Panisse alum chef Molly Levine and Alex Kaindl, who comes from a background in organic farming, cook seasonal dishes that pair perfectly with craft cocktails made using Tenmile’s spirits. 

On my visit we enjoyed early-Spring dishes like brothy beans and little neck clams with charred spring onions, as well as a roasted beet salad with local feta and a tangy ginger vinaigrette. I especially loved a play on a Vesper, which showcased both their Listening Rock gin and Sinpatch vodka paired with house vermouth. Take the scenic two-hour train ride up from New York City and visit Tenmile Distillery — you’ll return home with a bottle or two of vodka, gin, and if you’re lucky, single malt whisky for your home bar. 

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