SKANEATELES — It was a surreal moment for Tara Lynn Friday afternoon at Last Shot Distillery on Mill Road in Skaneateles.
The Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce executive director was at the establishment — a distillery that opened in December in the same building that housed the Earll & Kellogg distillery from 1840 to 1864 — to host a ribbon cutting ceremony and mark its opening, but she noted that as a teenager she babysat Kate Menapace, Last Shot's business manager.
It was also a surreal moment for the nearly six-month-old business, as Last Shot celebrated the occasion by releasing its bourbon after opening with a line of whiskey, vodka and moonshine and later introducing its line of maple syrup spirits.
"We're here to help you, and we want to partner with you along the way," Lynn told Menapace, as a crowd gathered around that included John Menapace, the operations manager, Chris Uyehara, the owner and distiller, and their family members.
The group looked on as Kate Menapace cut a ceremonial ribbon held on either end by Uyehara and John Menapace, and Lynn wished the new business the best of luck as they continue to grow and build their product.
"We know you're going to do awesome because we tried it, and it's awesome," Lynn said, as she also handed Kate Menapace a plaque signifying Last Shot's membership in the Chamber of Commerce.
After the ribbon was cut, the group went inside to sample the bourbon and other Last Shot products and Uyehara and Kate Menapace jumped behind the bar to pass out samples and tell customers about the distillery's latest product.
Uyehara said the distillery makes its bourbon in the traditional way, with mash that is fermented into alcohol, but he pays attention to the small batch and tests it periodically as it ages to make sure it is the optimum product.
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"It has a nice flavor," he said, noting Last Shot's first barrel of bourbon aged since November. "A nice vanilla, a little caramel, very smooth."
Barrel no. 2, he added, carries a more floral flavor, as each barrel is a different size to experiment with different tastes. All of the barrels are made from American oak found in the northeastern United States, and the distillery is beginning to make its own barrels because of the demand for that item.
Last Shot opened in Dec. 15, and Uyehara said it hosted regular hours through January, February and March even with a quiet season and slow traffic. Now, with the arrival of the warmer months, business is picking up — tours are available on a call-ahead basis, and a 40-person bus visited recently.
As well as at the establishment itself, Uyehara said Last Shot's products are available at more than 25 locations, including at The Krebs restaurant that had some of its staff visit the distillery to learn about its products.
"We educated the staff about our distillery," he said, adding that Last Shot's reach even extends out to Rochester and is making its way into country clubs between Marcellus and Skaneateles.
The next product on tap for the distillery is gin, and Uyehara said there are a couple of experimental batches in the works.
"Our focus is getting our name out there and letting people know we're here," he said. "We've just got to push and push and push and market our product."