Widow Jane is one of New York's leading whiskey distilleries, dedicated to telling uniquely New York stories through their small batch spirits.
Recently we were invited to visit their Red Hook distillery, learn about their history, and shoot along the way. Scroll through for the full story of the Widow Jane Distillery and Cacao Prieto Chocolate.
All Photos by Zeke Martinez, Words by Matthew Schonfeld
Dedicated to creating a truly craft spirit, Widow Jane produces their heirloom product from high quality non-gmo ancient grains sourced from farms in NY, KY, & PA. The operation is truly DIY, built with a tight-knit, multi-faceted team that handles the entire process from distillation, to aging, to bottling, and even labeling that is designed and printed in house.
The whiskey's namesake comes from its water — sourced from the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale, New York. The water is naturally filtered through mineral-rich limestone, the same limestone used to build the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and Empire State Building. With access to such a unique and historic water source, Widow Jane's whiskey is quite literally a part of New York history.
Widow Jane's flagship whiskey is a 10 year Straight Bourbon Whiskey sourced from Kentucky that is proofed with Widow Jane Limestone Mineral water from the mines in Upstate NY.
Their rickhouse, located across the street from the distillery, was a former family paper company and holds nearly 300 barrels, aging whiskey that ranges from 2 to 12 years old — including prestigious spirits like their "Baby Jane," which has won numerous awards including being named Gold in American Craft Whiskey at the New York Distilled Spirits Competition.
Widow Jane carefully sources ancient, non-GMO strains of corn from family-run farms in NY, KY and PA.
Technically, the story of Widow Jane starts with chocolate. The distillery used to be a parachute factory, but when that was sold a five year non compete forced the former owner to switch gears. He visited his family in the Dominican Republic and fell in love with the process of farming cacao. He quickly developed a beans-to-bar operation in order to roast, ground, and package their raw Dominican cacao all in Brooklyn.
Chocolate papers are inspired by vintage fabric patterns, designed and printed in house on their own printing press and laser printer. Whiskey labels reference ancient corn strains and are designed in house and sent to be printed on rolls fit for bottling.
The process of producing chocolate involves a method of fermentation that produces sweats, an alcoholic wash. The same fermentation and distillation process can be applied to making rums—in this case using sugar cane and cacao nibs.
After Hershey's Chocolate bought Scharffen Berger Chocolate in 2005, Cacao Prieto was able to acquired vintage, timeworn cacao roasters off auction.
The team at Widow Jane and Cacao Prieto are crafting artisan products with heart and care. The team built both entities with a strong commitment to DIY, craftsmanship and an acute eye for innovation. That balance drives everything the Red Hook team does. It's ambitious. It's calculated. And it's personal.
It's New York.
Visit them in Red Hook at 214 Conover St — tell them Only NY sent you!