A Visit to StilltheOne Distillery in Port Chester, NY
Like porn shops and triple-X theaters, distilleries must be sited at a safe distance from schools and churches, so that these vice-stoked engines of sin can’t lure innocents from the path of righteousness. Of course, this law was instituted before every 9-year-old had access to a laptop and the wide world of porn, but Port Chester’s StilltheOne Distillery lies dutifully exiled to the semi-industrial neighborhood behind Costco, down a rutted slope that ends in the Byram River. You won’t find any children playing in this gravel.
That said, the distillery, which makes the four Comb products—Comb Vodka, Comb Brandy, Comb 9 Gin and Comb White (white whiskey, née moonshine)—is a wholesome place. It’s clean, light-filled, and totally without the smell of liquor. It has Murphy, a white-snouted, tail wagging “distillery dog,” and an expensive, well-used bike propped behind an almost fully constructed “tasting table.” The table, actually a short bar, is built using wooden bee boxes—which is fitting, since nearly all of Comb’s products are distilled from fermented “honey wine” (or mead, without its hempen RenFair).
The largest of two rooms is more loading dock than workshop. Nearly one full wall is a garage door, which, on the day that we visited, was open to the October Indian summer. Nestled in the opening’s sunlight is StilltheOne’s entire creative center: a small, steel table holding some of the nine botanical flavorings that go into Comb’s gin. Over a sink, in a plastic rack, a few funnels, droppers, and beakers dried, but there was no dishwasher in sight other than the distiller’s owner, Ed Tiedge. Tiedge, a former bond trader and refugee from corporate layoffs is as sober-looking a distiller as (I imagine) you get. Smiling, but serious—tall, blond, athletic, and laser-focused. Looking into his intense blue eyes, it easy to view Tiedge as a titan of corporation, until Tiedge’s cellphone explodes into the air-raid siren that reminds him to check the fermentation. The room also holds four gleaming tanks that give the space the quality of a large ship’s boiler room. Beside the largest, the fermenting tank, is giant plastic “tote” that holds 1,000 liters of Florida honey. The honey is poured into the tank with the gravitational aid of a forklift “because,” according to Tiedge, “pumps cost money.”
StilltheOne’s products are found in a growing number of top-tier restaurants, including Blue Hill at Stone Barns, X2O, Tarry Lodge, and most of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s venues. The bottles emanating from the distillery are sleek tubular glass vessels whose heavy bases make them look and feel expensive – fitting, as Comb vodka is priced in the premium range inhabited by imported Grey Goose (France). In fact, last week, we found 750 ml bottles of Comb vodka at Zachys retailing for $32.99. Actually, what we found at Zachys was Comb’s absence: the vodka had sold out. This is not surprising when you see StilltheOne’s bottling line, which looks like four soda spigots rigged up with medical tubing. When a batch is ready, Ed and Laura Tiedge get their son and his friends to fill the bottles. The Tiedges pay the boys by buying them lunch.
Recently, StilltheOne added new distributors to its system, effectively putting their products in Connecticut and New Jersey. Look for upcoming events that feature StilltheOne’s spirits whipped into cocktails at Moderne Barn and X2O—or find StilltheOne’s products at a liquor store near you.