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Thistle Finch Distillery
by
Terry Sullivan

Thistle Finch DistillerySummary: Thistle Finch Distillery is located in an old red brick building. Look for a ruby garage-type door with a black bird painted in the center between the letters T and F. The entrance is along the side. The tasting room is in a charming section of this building. Visitors can taste the spirits in cocktails.

Thistle Finch Distillery is now the occupant of an old brick warehouse built in 1900. For decades the old Walter Schnader building was a tobacco warehouse. Later it became a greeting card company and then a company that made trade show displays. In 1990 the building, along with several others in the neighborhood, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It was abandoned before Thistle Finch moved in and remolded it for their distillery and tasting room. The distillery was started in December of 2013. Andrew Martin, owner and distiller hopes to have a diverse number of distilled products.

Thistle Finch DistilleryThe distillery takes up two floors with distilling equipment on the first floor and tasting area on the second floor. The large 150-gallon pot belly still takes up two floors so there is a cut out on the second floor to accomodate the still’s column. Visitors have a great view of the copper equipment from the tasting room. The building has additional space on other floors for aging in barrels. A brewery also has space on one floor.

Thistle Finch DistilleryIn addition to the large still that is used for making whiskey, there is a smaller stainless steel still with interchangeable copper fittings. This still is used to make other spirits such as gin and vodka. Along a wall, oak barrels are used to age whiskey. The rye whiskey is made with rye, wheat and malted barley. The majority of the grains, 90%, are sourced locally in Lancaster and Lebanon counties. The grains are milled to a flour consistency. Starches are turned into sugars and the mixture is fermented. The mixture is then distilled on the grain, rather than separating off the liquid to distill. The rye whiskey will be aged for two years in charred oak. At the moment, the Thistle Finch portfolio includes a white rye whiskey.

Tasting Room Cocktail Bar

Thistle Finch DistillerySpirits are used in cocktails. Visitors can order a cocktail in the tasting room. This comfortable room has brick walls and century old ceiling beams. It is a wonderful setting for tasting cocktails. A tasting counter along a wall has several stools so visitors can sit up next to the bar. The spirits are displayed on shelves with white backlit lighting. Above the bottle display there are Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs. The thistle finch used on a hex sign is meant to bring happiness and good luck. The origins of the thistle finch was probably started when a farmer observed that a goldfinch was on a thistle weed. The bird ate the seed and used the thistle fuzz to line its nests. The bird became known as thistle finch or distlefink. The reason for the happiness and good luck results from the bird eliminating thistle as a weed in a farmer’s field.

Spirits

Thistle Finch DistilleryThree spirits were tasted. Each was 40% alcohol. The Small Batch White Rye Whiskey was a clear color. This rye was unoaked. It had an aroma of grain and alcohol. The rye was smooth with a touch of sweetness. There was heat and a lingering aftertaste. Penn Square Vodka was a clear color with a slight aroma. The vodka was smooth and slightly sweet. The Market Alley Gin was a clear color. The spirit offered citrus and juniper on the aroma and taste. There was heat on the finish accompanied by a long citrus aftertaste.

Thistle Finch DistilleryIf you are interested in spirits and cocktails, visit Thistle Finch Distillery. The distillery tasting room cocktail bar is open from Wednesday through Sunday. Beginning in spring 2015, the distillery will offer tours.

Thistle Finch Distillery
417 West Grant Street
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

GPS: N40º 02.275’ W76º 18.799’

 

Article written March 2015

 


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