Recklesstown Farm, Distillery hosts tour for officials
COLUMBUS — Recklesstown Farm Distillery owner John Probasco led Ag Secretary Doug Fisher, Farm Bureau’s Peter Furey and other distinguished guests on a short tour of his distillery after all had spoken at Burlington County’s meet ‘n’ greet with legislators Sept 13.
“We purchased this former dairy farm in 2013,” Probasco said. “We grow the corn and potatoes for vodka and whiskey and gin right here on the farm.”
“We also purchase a lot of fruits and vegetables from farm stands in the immediate area to make our specialty drinks,” he said. “Almost everything is purchased locally.” Citrus fruits sourced from Florida and other southern states.
Probasco credited his distiller Ben Donia, for constantly striving to improve upon flavor and appearance of his hand-made vodkas, whiskey and gin. Bottled versions are available for purchase and home use near the bar area at the front of his building, which faces Route 206 in Columbus.
“We bring our corn from the farm to here and we mill it right here in the distillery area, my distiller does it,” he said, noting potatoes were recently run through the mill because they made potato vodka recently.
Probasco showed the tanks that are used to hold grain and yeast to take out the sugars, so fermentation can begin.
“We can make any kind of liquor with this still. The only thing we can’t make is vermouth, which is really a fortified wine,” he said, adding they recently made potato vodka and rum.
“We bottle everything right here, we can do about 120 bottles an hour, my wife, my children, our distiller we all work together and bottle and label them right here in the distillery,” he said.
“By law, vodka should be a flavorless, odorless liquid,” Probasco pointed out, “we don’t flavor any of our gins either, juniper is what gin has to have and we make a traditional London dry style gin. Our London dry style gin is our first gin product.”
Recklesstown Distillery can also do smaller batches, and Probasco noted he and his distillery crew will be producing blackberry brandy and applejack this fall as well.
“We can do all kinds of custom products here. Corn is relatively easy to manipulate and has a higher sugar content and rum is super easy, it’s all molasses. Luckily for our distiller, he gets really cheap, farm-fresh potatoes,” Probasco added, tongue-in-cheek.
The reality is, he pointed out, “we’re in a great area for lots of different things: the corn we use, the wheat and potatoes we use, we can make as a high a quality spirit here as anybody else anywhere around the country. In fact, we like to think we can do it better than anybody else because we know where the potatoes and grain are grown, and that is right here.
“Farmers here can grow anything,” Probasco argued, “what farmers are sometimes bad at, is marketing.”
Probasco said this fall, that Recklesstown Distillery will be serving potato margaritas and a mustard green kale mixed drink — the latter using greens produced at nearby Specca Farms.
“It is a farm market, it’s not a bar, and it’s also a distillery,” Probasco explained, “so by law we can only serve certain catered foods and can’t be part of the food process like a bar or restaurant.” Probasco and his crew also offer tours of the distillery.
“We’re here to provide a taste of our spirits here directly to the people,” Probasco said “and all of our gin, whiskey and vodka here is hand-crafted. We have some issues we need help with as a farm and we live in the most densely populated state in the country, so farming here is not without its challenges.
“We started this project about four years ago and we were two years of actively pushing this business and the most important thing that helped in getting this business established was the Right-To-Farm Act. That helped us to eventually open our farm market and distillery.”
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