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Clayton micro-distillery nearing completion

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CLAYTON — Construction of a 2,240-square-foot micro-distillery outside the village is about 90 percent done, and the facility is on track to be running in January.

“The only thing that’s left is our interior finishes, the bar inside the retail space and distilling equipment,” co-owner Michael L. Aubertine said of the project, which broke ground last spring. He said a 250-gallon copper pot still capable of processing 1,300 pounds of grain per day is set to arrive in December, but much of the equipment already has been installed. The facility houses a bin of grain needed to start making spirits, a full line of bottling equipment, scales and 1,500-liter fermentation tanks.

Ideally, Mr. Aubertine said, workers will start producing vodka, gin and fruit-flavored brandies by the end of January after equipment is installed and permits are acquired. If that timeline holds, the business likely will be open to the public by February. “The plan is to get as much stock built up in February and March to have some kind of ribbon-cutting in the spring,” he said.

Mr. Aubertine owns the facility with Clayton resident Michael L. Ingerson and Roger R. Howard, a Watertown small-business owner.

The distillery will be set up much like a winery, with a 960-square-foot retail space and tasting bar, and will include merchandise such as hats and T-shirts. Free quarter-ounce samples of spirits will be available and a full line of products will be showcased at the bar area. Daily tours of the facility will be hosted.

In addition to vodkas and gin, the distillery later will sell strawberry-rhubarb- and lemon-jello-flavored liquors. It also will start producing large barrels of whiskey that need to age for three years before they can be bottled and sold.

“We’re shooting for two barrels per month,” Mr. Aubertine said, adding that the return on that should help make the distillery profitable. “Our profitability should turn around completely once we pull whiskey out of the barrel, but it will be four or five years until we see the return on our investment.”

A Clayton farm owned by Mr. Aubertine’s parents, Terry and Linda Aubertine, will grow wheat, oats, rye and corn to be used at the distillery.

As a qualified farm distillery, Mr. Aubertine said, the company will be able to sell its products to retail stores, restaurants and bars.

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