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With a zoning special exception granted by the Chester Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC), Paul Grabek intends to put a family tradition to work in a new distillery to be housed at 56 Middlesex Avenue in Chester.
Grabek’s PZC application for a special exception submitted for the manufacturing of spirits and wholesale storage, on the property located in Chester was unanimously approved with conditions on July 11. One of the conditions prohibits retail sales and on-site consumption of liquor.
“We think this is great,” said PZC Chair John Lavy. “We are always happy to support local, small business in town. This will be a good transition for that building and the business will add to the variety of interesting things happening in Chester.”
The business, Deep River Distillery, will focus on vodka. Grabek’s inspiration to start distilling stems from the Polish Christmas Eve tradition with a toast of wisniowka (homemade black cherry vodka). In 2013, noting a scarcity of commercially made wisniowka, Grabek decided to put his chemistry background to work and follow his passion.
“I decided to offer a solution and to privately distill small batches of a cherry-flavored vodka for all to enjoy on Christmas Eve,” said Grabek. “Falling back on my chemist work experience, I settled on a formulation that I believed was very close to the original cherry favored wisniowka. Much to my delight and a blind taste test on Christmas Eve, my homemade wisniowka was the resounding winner. With this confidence boost, I began experimenting with various vodka mash bases including potato, corn, and wheat. The winning mash is corn and gluten free. The entire process is truly enjoyable and understanding the chemistry behind the distillation fuels my passion. I simply love to watch the entire process unfold.”
Deep River Distillery makes an unflavored vodka called Krew Vodka; the name marries Grabek’s love for maritime pursuits with his Polish heritage, because in Polish, krev means blood.
“This is an homage to all things family coupled with my love of the sea,” said Grabek, who grew up in Deep River. “This is the result of nine years of working to perfect a unique, single-distillation process resulting in an exceptionally smooth and clear naked vodka.”
Krew Vodka won its first accolade in the 2017 at the American Distillers Institute craft distillers’ competition, and received a Bronze Award in the national competition.
With branding, marketing, and packaging completed, Grabek explained that he’s ready to take his business to the next level and is planning on scaling up and bringing this product to the local market starting in Connecticut.
“We are still a few months away from getting everything in place, but this recent approval by the PZC has put us on our way,” said Grabek, who is now in the process of obtaining a license from the federal government to be approved to manufacture alcohol.
The licensing process is expected to take at least three months. Grabek also has to get approvals from town agencies such as the fire marshal, the Water Pollution Control Authority, the town sanitarian, and the building inspector.
“The wheels are in motion and I am excited to bring this product to the market. Right now, we are manufacturing small batches in Pennsylvania, but the Connecticut River Valley is my home and this is where I want my business to grow,” said Grabek.