The goal of Brooklyn, NY’s Greenhook Ginsmiths lies right in its name. This craft distillery in the Greenpoint neighborhood is dedicated to making gin. As its founder, Steven DeAngelo, says, that’s all his distillery will ever be focused on. With its American Dry style gin and modern takes on classic flavors, Greenhook is working hard to carve out a dominant position in its chosen niche.
Steven didn’t come from a long line of distillers or have deep ties to the liquor industry. Rather, his pre-distilling career was like many other New Yorkers: He worked in banking. Unlike his colleagues, he had a deep admiration for gin. While he was still working at a boutique trading firm, he decided to start looking into what it would take to make the best gin in the world. Less than three years later, he finally had his chance to do so.
Like many craft distillers, Steven found that the hard work started well before the still was installed and the boiler fired up. Starting a distillery in an urban area like New York meant paperwork. It meant a LOT of paperwork. As Steven tells it, waiting for all of the city inspections and permit approvals was a part of starting up he never wants to go through again. During the process of finding a suitable location, he learned more about sprinkler requirements, industrial zoning, and high rents than he ever thought possible. He also learned how rare heavy industrial space is in one of the hottest residential real estate markets in the country. When he finally found the right space, there was no turning back and there was no time to spare.
It is clear that hard work was never going to deter Steven from succeeding. When Greenhook finally had a product to sell, he and his partners took full advantage of New York’s self-distribution law. Before they had their first distributor, they pounded the pavement themselves, signing up 350 accounts in the first 10 months. This incredible growth speaks not only to the market’s demand for local, quality gins, but also the success a craft distiller can find with enough drive, a permissive legal framework, and a commercial vehicle with a lot of miles on it. Once those first 350 accounts had been signed, quality distributors were clamoring for Greenhook’s product. Today, Greenhook’s products are found throughout the tri-state area and in every major liquor store throughout New York City.
What makes Greenhook Ginsmiths’ gins so desirable? First, the distiller’s use a propriety process called “vacuum distillation.” While not new, as it was used extensively by perfume makers in the 19th century, this process preserves the delicate flavors of the gin’s botanicals. The actual process is closely guarded by Greenhook. Second, the gins are made using fresh, local produce. For the plum gin, a new take on the Sloe style, the fruit comes from a farm on Long Island. Which farm? Again, it’s a secret. The base spirit for all of their gins comes from upstate New York grains. Since nothing travels far, the flavors don’t have time to degrade before distillation and the distilling process itself preserves those flavors until they enter the bottle. Delicate flavor profiles and attention to detail seem to be paying off for Greenhook.
One gets a sense that DeAngelo is following a clear plan for Greenhook. His finance background taught him to be realistic about what it would take to create a winning business and he is committed to making the right long-term decisions. This plan meant doing a lot of work outside of making a product, like the decision to self-distribute for 10 months. As the brand continues to enter new markets on the back of strong representation, this decision is paying off. It meant using stock bottles for the first two years. This saved money in the beginning and allows the distillery to now buy custom bottles to get just the right look to carry the brand into the future. The secrecy around process and produce suppliers is designed to protect their investment, to make sure no one else can create a similar product. When you set out to make the best gin in the world, imitators seeking to take the short-cut to success are not welcome.
For more information on Greenhook Ginsmiths visits its website at http://greenhookgin.com/