Adam von Gootkin and Peter Taylor Kowalczyk shared an interest in the hobby of beer and wine making. They became business partners with an with an idea to make a product that would represent Connecticut to the world and started their own company: Onyx Spirits. They leased a space in an old mill building on Hilliard Street and, after two years of dealing with applications and paperwork, they have gotten through a maze of federal, state, and local regulations and licensing procedures and will be starting their .
Timothy Becker: What business are you involved in?
Adam von Gootkin: We make liquor. We produce a vodka, a limoncello, and moonshine. The vodka is made from organic wheat and Connecticut spring water. Our spring water is untreated and right out of the spring. Limoncello is an Italian after dinner cordial. We hand zest lemons, use grain alcohol, pure cane sugar and spring water. It takes a week of work to produce a batch of 500 bottles. The moonshine is the first moonshine to be produced legally in New England since prohibition.
Timothy Becker: Did you and Peter just start with an idea?
Adam von Gootkin: We are both hobbyist wine and beer makers. We thought that it would be neat if we could make an authentic American moonshine. We did tons of research to find out what an authentic moonshine made in Connecticut during phohibition would be like. We developed a recipe made with corn, grain and honey that was available in Connecticut at the time. We refined the process and recipe. The result is an extremely smooth moonshine that is as smooth as a single malt scotch, but crisp and clear as vodka.
Timothy Becker: Was it difficult to get the licensing to make liquor?
Adam von Gootkin: From concept to production took two years. The Federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau required us to complete a huge application. They look at our product simply as tax revenue. At the state level, the Connecticut Department of Liquor Control and the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services required the same information as the federal government. We were required to pay many fees. The town of Manchester Building Department and Fire Marshall's Office did site inspections. We had to set up the entire operation for two years without producing anything.
Timothy Becker: Did you need to do a lot of work converting the old mill?
Adam von Gootkin: The building owner was very helpful in renovating the space for our needs. This mill is the oldest woolen mill in the country. Blankets were made right here during the Civil War for the Union Army. It took six to nine months to renovate. Later we discovered that we needed to order a minimum of 10,000 bottles to get a price break. The pallets would not fit through the door, so we had to hand carry 1,600 cases of empty bottles into our storage room.
Timothy Becker: What are you planning for the future?
Adam von Gootkin: We want to be the first company that produces a nationally known liquor in Connecticut, that represents Connecticut to the world. We want to make a product that Connecticut is proud of: pure, simple and well made. Smirnoff was made here, but no one knew it as a Connecticut product. Our vodka doesn't sound Russian. Our vodka is called Charles Taylor.