Keeping Busy and Doing Things Differently
It took three years, half of it dedicated to paperwork, but Bill Candella finally found his new challenge in the Candella Micro - Distillery. Now, this Boardman, OH distillery is turning out award-winning vodka and the future looks bright.
Before firing up his still for the first time, Bill Candella had thirty years invested in just about every industry imaginable. He spent most of his professional life in the telecommunications industry, while also dabbling in aviation chartering, wedding photography, and even television journalism. When the time came for him to retire, he did what so many do – played golf and spent time with his family. After three months of the same daily routine, it was time for Bill to come out of retirement and start doing something new.
Bill came to distilling because he wanted to chart his own course in retirement and, as he puts it, “do things differently.” When someone has had just about every job imaginable it is hard to come up with the next big thing. Bill’s younger brother dared him to start up a liquor venture. Bill equates getting into distilling just like he got into golfing, with his brother egging him on saying “bet you can’t make it over the lake.” After joking about and loosely planning a winery and then a brewery, Bill and his brother finally asked each other “what about a distillery?” A craft distillery was appealing because it was still new in his corner of the Youngstown, OH area. There were already too many breweries and wineries in Ohio for the Candellas to really find their niche. So the distillery idea took hold. At first it was a joke that Bill and his brother would quip about while playing a round of golf. Then, one day, Bill showed up and threw a set of keys at his brother and said, “We have a building.” The time for jokes had ended.
With the signing of a lease, the Candella brothers had a building and an idea, now they just needed to figure out what they wanted to make. As many people do in the spirits industry, Bill reached out to others who were already distilling. He found a couple of distilleries in Ohio that, as he says, “were very nice and took us in; they gave us a tour of the place, answered a lot of general questions.” Once they figured out how to run a distillery, they just needed to get a recipe. Why Vodka? “Well, if everybody went one way, I always went the other…nobody was really making…vodka….so I figured I’ll go that route.” For Bill, that meant a lot of research during his “productive time,” which is between midnight and 4 AM. After a lifetime of working the graveyard shift, some habits are hard to break. He read everything he could and tracked down every recipe available. Mixing in a little inspiration and many glasses of limoncello, Bill’s dare finally became a real distillery.
With a glut of mass-produced vodka on the market, Bill knew he needed an angle to separate himself from the others. His answer: Pure cane sugar. Bill figured that he would just bypass all the steps required to pull sugar from starches and starches from potatoes and just “go straight to the source…you can’t get any better than pure cane sugar.” The critics seem to agree as his flagship spirit, Y-Town Vodka, has already won multiple awards, including best-in-class and best vodka, from the American Distilling Institute (ADI).
Creating a craft spirit by hand means Bill’s retirement years are filled with hours of work. He takes great pride in pointing out that everything is done by hand in his distillery. If someone doesn’t believe him, he dares doubters to come by his distillery at 5:00 AM on Saturday and Sunday. Those early risers will see Bill and his brothers bottle their award winning spirit, apply each label, insert each cork, and affix each shrink-wrap label. The other five days he’s either distilling, sampling, creating new recipes, or just about anything else that is required to run a growing business.
For Bill, there’s pride in doing it all by hand and great happiness in having something to share with his brothers. How far does this sharing go? “There’s endless paperwork that needs to be done. That’s why you got little brothers,” he says with a smile.
At Candella, the experimentation never ends and new products are constantly under development. Besides his award winning Y-Town Vodka, the Fall of 2014 will see the release of Candella’s new apple pie moonshine. The apple pie moonshine is geared for people who just want something sweet and easy to sip. As for what comes next, Bill is just scratching the surface of what the future will hold for his distillery.
There’s more to Y-Town Vodka than just how it's made and how the experts respond to it. There’s also the public response. To Bill, his proudest moments are when people come in with empty bottles, some from out of state, and ask where they can get more. Others ask why it doesn’t taste like other national brands. Bill simply tells them to look at the label and read the name – Y-Town Vodka – because that’s what they bought and that’s what it tastes like.
For more examples of doing things by hand, one needs only look at the electrical panel Bill and his brother assembled, or the pump that they bought from a winery and was advertised as broken. Bill points out that the pump was filthy, but after some disassembly and a deep clean, it started up. Now, his whole distillery literally runs through it. For the Candella Micro-Distillery, it’s all done by family and it’s all done manually.
For more information on the Candella Micro-Distillery, Vvsit its website at http://candellamicro-distillery.com