Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Adirondack Murray Inspires Local Whiskey, Rye and Vodka

A vintage poster reminds us of the celebrity of W.H.H. MurrayRandall Beach, an Albany attorney who grew up in Plattsburgh, has always been fascinated by W.H. H. Murray and the role that he played in opening the Adirondacks to tourism.

And with good reason. The New England cleric was a great-great grandfather on his father’s side.

With access to family papers, many of them never seen before, Beach is writing Murray’s biography. The last biography, published in 1905, was written by Harry Radford, better known for his efforts to re-introduce the moose and the beaver to the Adirondacks and for his death at the hands of his guides in Alaska.

Beach is also exploring the feasibility of bringing Murray’s Adirondack writings back into print.

But his more immediate goal is to re-introduce W.H.H. Murray to the Adirondacks through a new business venture, which he has just launched with his wife Sarah: Murray’s Fools Distilling Company, the first legal distillery in Clinton County since prohibition.

Randall Beach, the great-great-grandson of W.H.H. Murray with his wife and business partner, Sarah Callan BeachMurray’s Fools, of course, were the hapless dudes drawn to the Adirondacks in the 1860s by Murray’s most famous book, “Adventures in the Wilderness.”

But, says Beach, they didn’t remain fools for long. Many, like Murray himself, established camps on Adirondack lakes and became expert sportsmen, tireless hikers and the region’s first conservationists.

“Murray’s Fools Distilling Company seeks to create and provide fine spirits fashioned for those who, just as the original Murray’s Fools, have independent streaks, courage, adventurous souls and live for nature’s quiet moments,” says the Beaches marketing material.

Beach, a partner in the firm of Whiteman Osterman and Hannah, has not given up the law.

But he is clearly enjoying this sideline, as he refers to it, with his wife, at least in part because it enables them to spend more time in the North Country.

Their first product, a vodka, is named for an oyster bar Murray operated in Montreal: the Snowshoe Café. The Snowshoe is Clinton County’s first locally made vodka.

“My wife and I became interested in establishing a distillery in part because we appreciate really good whiskeys, so our long-range goal is make small batch ryes and handcrafted bourbons. In the short term, our focus will be on the craft vodka brand,” said Beach.

Their distillery is located in the Town of Altona, outside Plattsburgh. A grand opening is planned for later in the summer.

Photos from above: A vintage poster reminds us of the celebrity of W.H.H. Murray and Randall Beach, the great-great-grandson of W.H.H. Murray with his wife and business partner, Sarah Callan Beach. Courtesy of Adirondack Mirror Magazine.

A version of this story was first published in the Lake George Mirror.

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Anthony F. Hall is the editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror.

Anthony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Anthony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall.

Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.

2 Responses

  1. A new Murray biography is very exciting news! In my Adirondack travels I speak to many campers and hikers and most have never heard of him. Osprey Island in Raquette Lake was once known as Murray’s Island but that name did not stick. To the best of my knowledge there is nothing in the Adirondacks named after this important individual. (Maybe this exposure will change that.) Kudos to Mr Beach for taking on this exciting project. Can’t wait to read it and taste the vodka!

  2. Phil Terrie says:

    Looking forward to a new book on Murray! Thanks for this note.

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