Branchwater's Regenerative Spirit

There’s a particular joy in seeing industry people we love branching out to new things. We recently tasted with Branchwater Farms’ Robin Touchet and Kevin Pike – NYC industry vets who also live on an idyllic farm upstate, where they are producing some of NY’s most intriguing beverages.
This is the spirits edition of what’s become an increasingly familiar wine story: the rejuvenation of abandoned yet culture-rich land, with heritage varietals, farmed regeneratively – ultimately making a product unique to its place. (In this case, whiskey, brandy and gin.)
It's a project we're thrilled to support. If you like details as much as we do, there’s more below.

Rye field 📷 photo via Branchwater Farms

Robin and Kevin grew up visiting their respective families’ farms in Louisiana and Ohio, formative experiences which have come full circle in their stewardship of Branchwater Farms. Upstate in Red Hook, they purchased the 300+ year old farm a decade ago.

And, in the midst of their NYC careers (Robin in wine sales, Kevin as the founder of importer Schatzi Wines), they’ve managed to get this abandoned land absolutely humming with life.

Robin and Kevin; photo via Branchwater Farms

It’s a sharp counterpoint to the modern wave of Silicon Valley-infused distilleries. Truly a bootstrap operation, they have put hard 👏 work 👏 into connecting with the land for the last decade (growing a field of grain from scratch is no small task). Now, the property is back to where it was so many years ago: a polycultural ecosystem, where heritage wheat, rye and corn varieties grow alongside oats, peas, clover, buckwheat, daikon radish.

It’s intentional-but-natural regenerative agriculture at its best. With input from none other than Oregon legend Mimi Casteel, the way they are farming fosters biodiversity, prevents erosion, infuses the soil with nitrogen and the ability retain water. Even the property’s well water is an important input to their spirits; like vines, water is a carrier of terroir.

Dreamy grain field; 📷 via Branchwater Farms


The distillation is just as thoughtful, with a solid assist from another legend: Branchwater Farms is the only US distillery with a still designed by Austrian master distiller Hans Reisetbauer (a friend from Kevin’s work at Schatzi). Robin and Kevin have worked through the many stages of fermentation and distillation with Hans, whose methods could not possibly be more fine-tuned. And, it’s worth mentioning that all of the distillate is from their own wheat and rye – a rarity in the spirits industry, and especially in NY state where other crops are historically favored.

It's all to bring maximum expression of the land into the final product, something which their spirits more than achieve. These bottles stand out for their characterful style, and the intentional way they are farmed:

From wheat grown and milled at Branchwater, infused with organic juniper, lemon, orange and cardamom. Production focuses on preventing oxidation and retention of freshness: quick transfer of the grist to the mash tun, temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel, distillation as soon as the fermentation is complete. Macerated with the botanicals for 24 hours. The result is a beautifully bright-but-viscous triple distilled gin; we especially love it in a martini.

From a local (5th generation) Bartlett pear farm, hand sorted and crushed before fermentation and distillation. There are about 10 lbs of pears in every bottle (!) and the result is an incredibly fragrant brandy that's like eating a pear, only better...if you love pears as much as we do, it's a must.

An extremely limited release made from the wheat orphaned from their gin production. Double distilled and aged for 18 months, first in new oak then finished in used Pinot Noir (from Raj Parr!) and Chardonnay barrels. Cut to 45% with well water before bottling. A whiskey with lovely depth, subtle caramel and white peppercorn.

The main event! Like the wheat, the Danko rye is also grown and milled at Brancwhater. Double distilled and aged in new oak for two years, cut 50% with well water before bottling. A gentle, lovely rye with notes of coriander.