Last year a new, Hampshire County, West Virginia, farm owner and his crew were out generally clearing some land when this one particular oak tree was felled. As it came crashing down, a large family of flying squirrels bailed out and scattered.
“I was mortified,” said farm owner Stephen Settimi. “I said right then and there that I would never cut down another dead tree again because there are things living in them.”
So in honor of those squirrels, the Flying Squirrel Ranch & Farm was born. And soon, some attractive farm-based ventures will follow.
Settimi’s current passions are his farm and starting a farm distillery. He moved to rural Hamshire County from Washington, DC, with exactly that thought in mind. His Rada Craft Distillery (the venture’s official name) is now fully licensed.
Rada Craft Distillery, a farm-to-bottle operation
Farm to Bottle is how Settimi describes his new distillery. That means you will taste products grown on his or neighboring farms in every bottle.
“I’m not shooting for high volume,” Settimi says. “My products will be small batch, unique, and high quality.”
Flying Squirrel Ranch & Farm is nestled in the Potomac Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains about two and a half hours out of metro DC. It’s close enough to allow easy access for weekend tourists, yet far enough away to provide a totally different vibe for those wanting a break from city life. The farm distillery’s public areas opened in summer 2015. Settimi expects many of his former DC neighbors will want to come and visit—and sample.
Spirit Whisky first in bottle
For his first product, a Spirit Whisky, this summer he will grow a sugary sweet corn variety very high in fermentables. He will harvest the corn at its peak ripeness and slice the fresh kernels from the cob, releasing the sweet milk inside. The fresh creamed corn is placed in the mash tank and cooked. Next, the mash liquid goes into the fermenter where yeast is added, and it stays for several days. When fermentation finishes, the new beer is pumped into the still and the distillate is taken out at a fairly low proof, retaining a lot of the grain and fermentation flavors.
The whisky is placed into oak barrels where it mellows for a period of time. It is then blended with a potion of neutral grain spirit, which will also be made at the farm. It is the blending of these two products — neutral spirits and whisky — that creates Spirit Whisky. Pure water is added to take the product down to bottle proof. Finally, bottles are filled, capped and labeled all inside the farm distillery.
Once the whisky is bottled it will be for sale at the distillery store, where free samples will be available for tasting.
Bourbon & more down the road
Settimi plans to distill and barrel-age more whisky than he needs for his Spirit Whisky. He will also fill a number of new charred oak barrels with his distillate and let it age for at least two years so it can qualify as Bourbon Whisky.
More ideas are on tap for the future. He plans to test a corn with oat whisky mash. He produced Applejack (apple brandy) from a neighbor’s apple orchard and will offer run another batch again this fall. Later, he hopes to produce a rum, made in part with farm-raised sorghum cane. He also would like to produce a Black Walnut liqueur using local nuts as well as other liqueurs. With a farm distillery, the possibilities are endless.
Flying Squirrel Ranch & Farm will market its liquor products under the brand name Rada Appalachian Spirits.
Appalachian Spirits and adventures
While the distillery may be the primary venture at the Flying Squirrel Ranch, Settimi also plans offer other agri-tourism and mountain activities including farm adventures, camping, hiking, zip line, and fishing. During the winter and spring months farm facilities are available for private parties and events.
Flying Squirrel is located off US Hwy. 220 near Rada, WV. Rada is located about midway between Romney and Moorefield, WV.
Website: RADA Appalachian Spirits
For additional information visit: Flying Squirrel Ranch website