Shady Knoll Orchards & Distillery LLC is an exciting new addition to the rapidly growing craft distillery industry in the U.S. We are located in the beautiful Hudson River Valley about an hour and a half drive north of New York City. Our orchards and distillery lie just south of the quaint Village of Millbrook in Dutchess County on a country farm that dates back to the late 1700s.
We’re pleased to distinguish ourselves from other craft distillers as follows:
- We are family owned and operated by the extended Kneipper/Richards family
- We grow our own apples and rye, bringing our farm’s unique terroir to our apple brandy and whiskey products
- Our apple brandy is enhanced by combining the flavors from over 120 different varieties of cider apples and other types of apples grown in our orchard
- We do 100% of all processing, fermenting, distilling, barrel-aging, bottling and labeling ourselves on our farm
- We are focused on producing small quantities of unique, high quality specialty craft distilled products
We are starting construction of our tasting room and expect to be open to the public sometime in late 2018. Please check back for announcement of our opening and hours. We expect our first apple brandy and rye whiskey spirits to be bottled and released in late 2018.
Our odyssey began in 1980 when Rick and Sherry Kneipper bought a beautiful little farm in scenic Clove Valley, just south of Millbrook, in New York’s historic Hudson River Valley. They named it “Shady Knoll.”
Shady Knoll’s only farming activities at the time were to allow neighbors to graze cattle and horses and grow corn. Rick promptly vowed to find a way to reinstate Shady Knoll as a working farm, which was a bit bizarre for a lawyer then working on Wall Street and later as an entrepreneur in Dallas. However, Rick’s grandfather had been a dairy farmer for most of his life and indoctrinated Rick as a young boy about the joys (and challenges) of a working farm. Apples were an obvious choice for a crop since New York State is the second largest apple producer in the U.S. (and the apple is designated as its official state fruit). So hatched the plan to grow apples on Shady Knoll farm to use in the production of hand-crafted apple brandy (Calvados as the French call it), a long-time Rick favorite–which was rather adventuresome since at the time there were less than five craft distilleries in the U.S. (now there are over 1,500).
Rick continued to do extensive research regarding apple growing and apple brandy production, but career and children delayed realization of the dream until 2011. Then Shady Knoll’s apple orchard was planted–over 1,800 trees with over 120 different varieties, including many well-known U.S., English and French cider apple trees such as Macoun, Liberty, Goldrush, Spigold, Sansa, Medaille D’or, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Binet Rouge, Mettais, Ashton Bitter, Pippen, Ashmead’s Kernel, Black Oxford, King David, Michelin and Bedan.
After the apple orchard was well-established (which turned out to be much more hard work than expected), Shady Knoll’s odyssey ramped up quickly. In 2015 Rick and Sherry’s son-in-law, Andrew Richards, became Shady Knoll’s full-time Farm Manager/Head Distiller, assisted by daughter Lindsey and their son Wallace. Andrew works full-time managing the farm; mowing, spraying, trimming, tying and caring for the apple orchard; picking and processing apples; equipping, setting up and operating the distillery; and coordinating a myriad of tasks such as the arrival of honeybees in the spring (which led to Shady Knoll’s first honey in 2016), and planting and harvesting rye. Rick spends about half of his time working with Andrew at Shady Knoll, and Sherry, son Ryan and his wife Kate (and their two children, Ellie and Max) also participate–truly a family affair. In 2015 Shady Knoll built a distillery barn and equipment shed, and purchased and installed apple processing equipment (grinder and juice press from Slovenia). And for the first time Shady Knoll planted ten acres of rye on the farm to use in production of whiskey since Andrew, Ryan and Rick all love whiskey.
In 2016 Shady Knoll installed its still, a gorgeous 850 liter (225 gallon) Alembic Charentais Pot Still manufactured by the leading French manufacturer, Chalvignac Prulho Distillation (quite an adventure shipping a nine ton still across the Atlantic and having two technicians from France install it); built a grainery and installed a grain silo, hammer mill and grain processing equipment; harvested its first crop of rye (three tons moved into its silo) and planted the next crop of rye; installed a mash tun (from China); and obtained its federal TTB license and NYS license. So, in early 2017 Shady Knoll finally started distilling, barreling and aging its initial products, apple brandy and rye whiskey. All very exciting… and a bit daunting. Learn more about our products. For additional information regarding Shady Knoll, please listen to the following online interview with Andrew Richards: https://soundcloud.com/user-106409049/accidental-locavore-shady-knoll?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email.
Click on video below for an aerial view of our orchard.
Construction of our new tasting room finally started in mid-November and hopefully will be completed by the end of 2018–check out the following construction picture.