Elias Barber doesn’t care for vodka. So, the distilled spirit he creates from the family farm’s potatoes must be pretty damn good.
His 1857 Spirits distillery is a marriage of his penchant for academic rigor developed at Cornell University as an agricultural science major and his family’s 160-year legacy at Barber’s Farm more so than the product itself.
A member of the sixth generation to operate the farm, Barber wanted to contribute to that legacy. All the pieces happened to be there, right down to the water they draw from a natural spring on the property.
Over the many, many years, Barber’s has grown numerous crops from hay to corn. Potatoes became a staple in the 1940s, when Barber’s grandfather first planted them as part of a 4-H project associated with the local high school.
The Schoharie Valley was once known as the Breadbasket of the American Revolution, providing critical sustenance for George Washington’s army. The topsoil, estimated to be about 10 feet deep remains remarkably fertile all these centuries later.
Traditionally a bland vegetable requiring accoutrements at the kitchen table, Barber’s Farm spuds give 1857 vodka a creamy sweetness and floral aroma.
Armed with this exceptional natural resource and love of learning, Barber dove into the art of distilling. It’s his consistent drive to improve and persistent pursuit of perfection that makes it beverage worthy of his own palate.
One of the few potato vodka makers in the country, it’s appealing to the tastes of many others as well. Barber has plenty of plans to expand his line to gin and beyond while also upping production in the coming years and, likely, for future generations on Barber’s Farm.