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Distillery taps New York maple syrup for unique product

Black Squirrel Distillery

Nothing beats New York maple syrup poured over a fresh batch of pancakes. But what about maple syrup combined with cold brew coffee and aged Caribbean rum?

This is the newest concoction being unveiled by Black Squirrel Distillery. President Jason Schwinger said the abundance of maple trees in New York State is a boon to his business.

“It’s just become a huge, kind of largely forgotten about or hidden part of New York State agriculture. We like maple syrup, obviously we make all of our products with it or from it, and for us, it’s quite honestly the heart of our brand and the heart of every product we make.”

By any yardstick, the local brewing and distilling industries are enjoying a Renaissance of sorts. Experts say  the boom  is tied to new state incentives, including loans to small business owners.

“People who had the itch or to take the brewery movement and the winery movement a step further and get back to where business had been done pre-Prohibition.” Schwinger told WBFO.  “There haven’t been this many distilleries in the country since Prohibition began back in 1919.”

Schwinger said it was a “smart move” for the state to let brewers open without heavy restrictions. State rules require brewers that receive incentives to buy ingredients from local farms, a mandate that Schwinger calls “a win-win.”

When it comes to his new liqueur, Schwinger said the addition of maple syrup beats the alternative.

   “Coffee liqueurs are prevalent, there’s tons of those. There’s good ones, there’s not so good ones. I

Credit Black Squirrel Distillery

believe we have a winner with ours, in that instead of using artificial sweeteners or cane sugar, we use nothing but pure grade A maple syrup to sweeten it. And we have a great coffee in it as well and the rum just adds a terrific amount of flavor and character and depth to the whole product.”

A public tasting for the distillery's Ardilla Negra Maple Coffee Liqueur will be held Saturday from noon until 5 p.m.  at the distillery at Elmwood and Amherst streets.

   The liqueur is the third product Black Squirrel Distillery has distributed since it began operating less than a year ago. Schwinger said there are a “whole slate of new things planned” in the near future.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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