COLTS NECK, N.J. - The official grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration for the new Colts Neck StillHouse; Muckleyeye, located at 300 Route 34 South in Colts Neck was held on Wednesday, January 16, at 4pm.
It was a full house as Colts Neck residents, local and county officials, friends and family all gathered to celebrate and toast to the success of the entrepreneurial spirit of Colts Neck resident Geoff Karch. All in attendance were immediately put into a festive mood hearing the sound of bagpipes at the front door.
VIDEO: Listen to the festive spirit of the bagpipes here by Derek Midgley:
StillHouse is the first full service farm distillery in New Jersey and unlike the existing industrial warehouse distilleries, Colts Neck StillHouse offers cocktails, tours, tastings, and will host special events in the brand-new facility.
At the grand opening celebration Karch thanked everyone, giving special thanks among others, to his wife Maryann for 'believing in and supporting his dream'. He also thanked his friend and business investor Steve Soldano who commented to TAPinto, "After working with Geoff for close to 10 years, when he approached me about the StillHouse I was immediately interested. Geoff is a hardworking keen guy with an understanding of consumer behavior. Geoff identified a broad based trend, that being; locally sourced, high quality food and beverage products, and translated it to a segment he has a passion for."
When asked why the name Muckleyeye? Karch said, “This is a term my grandfather used for those moments of discovery, joy and enthusiasm. He’d scream out, ‘Holy Muckleyeye! It's a word of exuberance that matched the level of my passion for what I’m doing here. Hopefully people will say ‘Holy Muckleyeye’ at the end of the experience.” This proclamation captures the core of the distillery’s motto: Each product is made with white-knuckle enthusiasm and exuberant pride.
When it was time for the official ribbon cutting, everyone went outside to the front lawn to gather. Former Colts Neck Mayor and Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian Burry presented Karch with a proclamation from Monmouth County and the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Welcoming remarks were also made by Freeholder Director Tom Arnone. Sheriff Shaun Golden was there to show his support of local business as well as Freeholder Jerry Scharfenberger, County Clerk Christine Hanlon, and Colts Neck's Deputy Mayor Frank Rizzuto and Committeeman Michael Viola.
Guests enjoyed the special cuisine from the delicious foods of the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck from Freehold, parked behind the StillHouse, serving up a delicious variety of foods including their signature lobster tacos and rolls, lobster grilled cheese, shrimp tacos and so much more.
The StillHouse is an all new venture for the family. Geoff and Maryann raised their children Lillie and Harrison in Colts Neck while Geoff worked at his career in television advertising sales. He began to seriously consider trying his hand at distilling. “It’s a passion I’ve had. I did a little home brewing and I always wanted to make something with my own two hands. It’s a very new industry in New Jersey relative to other states, particularly out west. There is approximately fifteen or so craft distilleries in New Jersey.” As a craft distillery, StillHouse is legally bound to distill no more than 20,000 gallons per year.
The StillHouse building is designed similar to a distilling focal point in Kentucky, known as Moonshine University. His architect worked with Kentucky engineers, and Amish crews constructed the facility and the indoor bar. To prepare for his new career, Geoff said, “I went through a really intensive training camp in the distilling epicenter located in Louisville, Kentucky which is the home of bourbon whiskey. I learned a lot of the Kentucky secrets. I formed my recipes there and my technique and learned how to run my equipment. I have a set of advisors there who are still on my board so if I need help or advice, they are there. The rest of the learning was from self-study.”
Bourbon and other whiskeys are certainly a focus of StillHouse but guests also can enjoy rum, several styles of gin, vodka and flavored “moonshines”, such as apple and pecan pie and other flavors for special times of the year. Distilling is on premises and, where possible, using local ingredients. Area farms have already been enlisted to grow the necessary corns, ryes and other grains.
Geoff noted that there are approximately 250 styles of bourbon made by about thirteen major manufacturers currently. This mass production is accomplished in a very commercial way using column stills. Geoff acknowledged that while they make a great clean spirit, The StillHouse products are distinctive. Distilling truly is an art. “Mine are going to taste a little different. They are made with a single pot still, a 250-gallon pot still made in Kentucky. Our gin will have a unique flavor too. Gin has to be juniper forward to be labeled as gin. We will use hints of local botanical flavors, including local cranberry and rosemary.”
The StillHouse is permitted to serve cocktails in its tasting room and to sell up to six bottles to an individual. It also is allowed to sell to liquor stores and restaurants. Only its own products may be served and sold and this suits the Karches just fine. Geoff emphasized, “Our philosophy is really hyper local. The main aim is to service the local community and be a quality artisanal experience.”
The StillHouse will surely become a destination. “We want to make it a truly memorable experience so people will be transported back to a time, pre- prohibition, when there were about 10,000 small distilleries in the U.S., all making their own local products. We are using pots similar to those used 100 years ago. Visitors will come to see the essence of how that all happened, and will taste the products they learn about. We want them to experience the distillery and just have fun.”
For more information, visit coltsneckstillhouse.com.