The dream for the Catskill Distilling Company began with owner and distiller Monte Sachs, who grew up on a dairy farm in coastal Connecticut and first encountered the art of distilling while attending veterinary school in Italy at the University of Pisa. There, while traveling through Italy, he learned the art of distilling traditional grappa from an 80-year-old farmworker named Bernardini.
With the passage of the New York State Farm Distillery bill in 2008, which facilitates the sale of spirits made by private distillers within the state, Monte decided to turn his attention from the practice of equine medicine to the art of fine distillation. Monte and his wife Stacy opened the distillery in Bethel, NY, scarcely a stone’s throw from the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival, along with an adjunct business, the Dancing Cat Saloon, which serves not only their own spirits but craft beers and fine food prepared by locally renowned chef Jay Weinstein.
Other key players have been Christian and Jacob Carl, whose family has been fabricating fine distilling equipment in Germany ever since 1889, and who created the fabulous copper stills visible behind the glass wall of our tasting room; and Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, who has been a key consultant. Henderson is well known for having developed Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve whiskeys during his career at commercial distiller Brown & Forman.
The themes of history, art, music and community run through the activities not only of the distillery, but of its siblings the Dancing Cat Saloon and the Stray Cat Gallery, which opened across the street in spring of 2013. The Dancing Cat and Stray Cat are located in lovingly renovated Victorians. The art deco bar at the distillery comes from the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing. The Woodstock legacy of the area is reflected in the names of our spirits, from Peace Vodka to Most Righteous Bourbon. The music of the concerts at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located on the Woodstock site, is echoed in weekly performances at both the Distillery and the Saloon (see our events page). Artwork created by Stray Cat artists is displayed on the walls of the Dancing Cat.
The Distillery is making its own piece of history with award-winning spirits like Peace Vodka, which received a double gold medal for best domestic vodka in the 2012 Fifty Best awards and the eponymously named ”one and only Buckwheat Spirit” virtually unique because of the challenges that buckwheat offers the distiller. Most recently, it has struck up a deal with Brewery Ommegang from another center of New York history, Cooperstown, to create a malt whiskey.