A taste of Appalachia, and not a ‘revenooer’ in sight

By Brenda Maguire

BRISTOL — Whether it’s mixed with soda, on the rocks or poured into hot apple cider with whipped cream and nutmeg on top, Onyx Moonshine appears to be on its way to becoming a popular item in Connecticut.

“It fits with different people and what they like,” said co-founder Adam von Gootkin of Bristol, adding, “It’s so good that you can replace any vodka or whiskey with it.”

About three years ago von Gootkin, 28, and his partner, Peter Kowalczyk, 31, were wondering why there were no Connecticut liquor companies, so they decided to take it upon themselves to create one.

The company, Onyx Spirits Co., located in Manchester, just launched its first product, Onyx Moonshine, about five week ago. In that time the company has sold 1,000 bottles, which is 20 percent of its yearly estimated total.

Onyx Moonshine is the first moonshine produced in Connecticut since Prohibition, von Gootkin said.

“It’s different in the sense that most people have never really had it,” said von Gootkin, adding, “I think it’s the first product of its kind.”

Von Gootkin and Kowalczyk spent more than two years tweaking the recipe.

“It is made with our secret, authentic Prohibition-era recipe made with corn, grains and freshly drawn Connecticut spring water,” said von Gootkin. “It’s an authentic moonshine that’s been altered a bit to make it incredibly smooth and delicious.”

Because moonshine is not a commonly sold liquor, von Gootkin said he and his partner are defining just what constitutes moonshine. He said the liquor falls somewhere between whiskey and vodka.

“If we kept distilling this over and over again and stripping it of its flavor it would be vodka,” von Gootkin said, adding that if it were aged in an oak barrel it would be whiskey.

Onyx Moonshine is lighter and crisper than whiskey while being more flavorful and smoother than vodka.

Von Gootkin said the company, meanwhile, is preparing to launch other products.

“We have vodka and limoncello sitting in tanks that we haven’t gotten to bottle yet,” he said.

He added that the Moonshine is selling well and demand is increasing.

Von Gootkin moved to Bristol about two and a half years ago and is living in the historic E.D. Rockwell house, which was built in 1876 by Joel T. Case for E.D. Rockwell, the founder of New Departure Bell Co., one of the biggest bell companies in America with its innovative doorbell.

Last week Onyx Moonshine was part of the gift baskets given to performers, presenters and participants of the Country Music Awards. The company sent about 100 bottles to Nashville to be included in the baskets.

Onyx Moonshine is only available in about 40 locations in Connecticut, including Garnish Bistro in Bristol and Southington Wine and Spirits Co. It’s also sold in Buy-Rite Liquors and Manousos Wine and Liquors in Wethersfield. A bottle costs around $23.

For more information about Onyx Spirits Co. visit http://www.OnyxSpirits.com.

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