By Burton Speakman
Mixing alcohol and relatives doesn’t always produce the best results, but for a Mahoning Valley family the combination is resulting in the area’s first micro-distillery.
Salvatore Candella, master distiller and company CEO for Candella Micro-Distillery, said his company is waiting on the last of necessary permits for the business to arrive. Two weeks after the permits arrive, the company’s first vodka will be available.
Candella is partnering with his brothers, Donn, Terry and Keith, along with longtime friend Doug Bouslough.
The micro-distillery also will produce whiskey and bourbon as things move forward, Candella said. The company will be limited by its license to 10,000 gallons of alcohol per year.
“Ohio law requires I sell the product to the state, and then state liquor stores will have to request it. I’ve already contacted all the local state liquor stores, and they’re excited about carrying a local product,” he said.
In addition to the state liquor stores, product also will be available at the distillery, Salvatore Candella said. The state limits purchases to four shots and four bottles during each visit.
An eight-level tower still already sits at Can- della’s building that will take vodka through various distilling processes until it is 190 proof or higher, he said.
“When it gets going, it looks like it’s raining in there,” Salvatore Candella said. The company is waiting on the arrival of the larger still that was ordered from China, he said. It’s hard to buy a lot of this equipment. Typically, it has to be specially made.
“I looked into buying the stuff from Germany, but found it in a place in China. I could get everything for a third of what I would pay in Germany,” Salvatore Candella said. “It looked like good quality. I ordered some to make sure it was, and ended up ordering everything there.”
Donn Candella got involved after several talks with his brother.
“He kept bringing up the project, telling me to watch videos on YouTube,” Donn Candella said. “I finally said I think he wants me to go in on this with him, even though he never said anything directly.”
The entire group is excited about the project and just want to get going, Donn Candella said.
“We’ve learned a lot, but there is still a lot left to learn,” he said. “These are pretty elaborate systems.”
The goal is to just get the new still to the Boardman facility and be able to start operations, Donn Candella said.
The group is still waiting on a second larger still to arrive.
“It’s not like what you see on TV. They have to run their alcohol through there several times to increase its proof,” Salvatore Candella said.
Once Salvatore Candella determined he wanted to open a distillery, he started reading every book he could on the topic and looking at classes to attend on making liquor.
“I got all kinds of books and read them from cover to cover,” he said. “A lot of the classes were just a way to sell you their product.”
But he did attend one in Chicago that provided a lot of hands-on instruction in operating a still, Salvatore Candella said.
The goal is for the company to only sell the middle portion of the vodka distilling process where the product has no smell and taste, he said.
There are other companies that will mix the middle, beginning and end of the process together to create a larger volume of product.
Candella will not sell anything but the best of the distilling process because of the limit of 10,000 gallons yearly that can be produced, Salvatore Candella said.
One of the challenges that has been facing the company is that there isn’t anyone in the area currently distilling spirits, said Bouslough
“Since it’s new. nobody wants to make a mistake, which is why it takes so long and we have to be patient,” he said.
Boardman Township officials have been accommodating, Salvatore Candella said.
The initial investment is between $150,000 to $200,000, he said.
There is a lot of work to opening a distillery. There are permits from the U.S. Department of Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, along with permission from the state and local area that must be secured, Salvatore Candella said.
“If it was easy, everybody would be doing it,” he said.
The distillery is at 388 McClurg Road, Suite 3, in Boardman.