As with any good story, opening Mumford Distillery has been a long process with some unexpected turns and a few too many drinks. We are, finally, proud to announce that Mumford Distillery is ready to open its doors and begin distillation. Now that we are on the precipice of this long-sought milestone, I can look back at some of our earlier mishaps and see the humor that was originally too deeply buried under disappointment. Above all else, I will remember the time I was able to spend with family that I might not have had otherwise. Even if much of it was spent arguing over who exactly was to blame for the wrong measurements and how many trips to the hardware store were too many for one day.
Mumford Distillery was conceived twelve years ago in 2009 while I was working a summer job in a state-run liquor store. It started innocently enough as a joke between my older brother and I. The main focus of the joke revolved around a still named the ‘Critter Spitter’. This was during the boom of the craft brewing industry and although the tail of the Critter Spitter was short lived the idea of making craft spirits stayed with me.
In 2015 I found myself living and working in Central Ohio. Born and raised in the country I was extremely bored living in an apartment complex. With excess time on my hands I started reading online blogs and articles about home distilling This started as a hobby but soon I was scouring the internet for everything it had to offer on the topic of distillation. It wasn't long until I discovered that there was an abundance of information available to someone interested in home distilling but a lack of articles on producing quantities on a commercial level. From blogs my research quickly graduated to buying books and eventually to field trips. By far the best source of information I have found to date is simply traveling to local distilleries and speaking to the people who work there. I have never met anyone who was not happy to discuss their craft and answer all of my endless questions.
When I began designing our own distilling equipment a multitude of influences can be seen. I tried to take the best of everything I read. Our shoe string budget demanded the final product be able to perform as a pot still and a column still along with other features. It is safe to say that the final design is a truly unique distillery which will produce one of a kind spirts. Full credit is due to the many local craftsmen that helped me build our equipment. Without them Mumford Distillery would never have been possible. They also helped my father talk me out of some of my more outlandish ideas. I consider the Mumford Distillery to be a micro distillery with one large 130 gallon still and a smaller 80 gallon still. But I am getting ahead of myself.
It wasn't until I moved back to North Western Pennsylvania that a plan started to form. I was home visiting my family when I noticed a small two car garage on one of the family farms that had a tall peaked roof and I thought “that building has plenty of height for a distillation tower”. Another perk was it may be one of the only buildings on the farm not used to house some form of barnyard animal. To determine the feasibility of my wild idea, I researched local codes and laws, but more importantly, asked my grandmother’s permission since she owned the building I hoped one day to turn into a distillery. With all of that in order I lay claim to my new corporate headquarters
Cleaning out the small building was no mean feat. When I was a child it was home to a large pool filter and my grandparents' cars. With the pool long since filled in and only a distant memory it became a storage place for the normal array of odds and ends that tend to pile up around a farm. This hodgepodge of outdated equipment and other random, not-quite-broken items all ended up tucked in the old garage - just in case they might be useful in the future. Once the building had been cleaned, we began the arduous task of updating wiring, insulating, drywalling, and plumbing. My father and I did most of the work. This is evident in the quality of the drywall. We quickly adopted the mindset of “that’s okay we can just cover it with trim”. I started ordering oversized outlet covers and extra-large trim boards.
With only two of us to do all the remodeling time quickly started to slip away. Although once again a resident of the commonwealth I still lived an hour away from my family farm. With a long commute time management became my biggest enemy. To compound this issue, I had just started a new job and bought a new house. Weekends at the distillery quickly started to lose priority to home remodeling, working overtime shifts, and trying to meet social obligations. Three years quickly slipped by and distillation was still far from a reality.
Finally, in early 2019 we attempted to brew a large batch of beer to test our mashing and fermenting equipment. In the morning excitement was high with the prospect of years of hard work becoming a reality. By evening we all had accepted the harsh realization that we were not prepared and had to redesign our entire fermentation operation and several aspects of our mashing set up. One more year quickly passed while I watched other craft distilleries pop up all across the state, many in my own backyard. While attempting to stay positive with the setbacks we slowly trudged forwards.
Yay Beer!! After four long years of what was starting to feel like a collection of wasted weekends and a quickly growing list of expenses, we successfully brewed a large batch of beer. I had a good feeling 2020 was going to be a big year for Mumford Distillery. Then entered COVID-19. Like most businesses around the world Mumford Distillery had severe setbacks due to COVID-19. In some aspects it was fortunate that we had not started production. Lack of overhead meant we could shut the doors without worry of financial loss.
Now at the start of 2021, five years after starting this journey I am proud to say we are ready to begin. Mumford Distillery is an entirely privately funded, small family owned and operated distillery. We are patiently awaiting our final licensing and we will be ready to start production. It’s been a long road to get here and I am confident this is just the start. We hope to see you on the way.
CEO and Head Distiller