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Mount Hope Estate & Winery launches distillery

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Scott Bowser of Spirits Distilling Co. in the tasting room of the distillery, which recently opened on the grounds of Mount Hope Estate & Winery in Rapho Township, Lancaster County.
Scott Bowser of Spirits Distilling Co. in the tasting room of the distillery, which recently opened on the grounds of Mount Hope Estate & Winery in Rapho Township, Lancaster County. - (Photo / )

Mount Hope Estate & Winery, the home of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, recently launched Spirits Distilling Co., building on the budding popularity of craft distillers in Pennsylvania.

The distillery is housed in a 2,000-square-foot building that was constructed in 2013. It’s part of the Faire’s “walled city,” which was built in 2007. The distillery features a tasting room with a large wooden plank table handcrafted by a local artisan.

Scott Bowser, managing partner of Mazza Vineyards, the parent company of Spirits Distilling and other Mount Hope brands, said the name refers not only to distilled alcoholic beverages. It also is nod to rumors that the estate’s grounds in Rapho Township - and a mansion constructed there in the early 1800s by its earliest inhabitants - are haunted.

Through the Faire and other events throughout the year, Mount Hope draws nearly 300,000 visitors annually.

"We get a lot of foot traffic on the property, so we don’t intend to distribute our spirits," Bowser said, "We’re a bit different than many other distilleries. We create the signature cocktail first then make the product. For our holiday events, we offer a peppermint hot chocolate that has a shot of our Sleighride Peppermint Schnapps. Our guests get to try the beverage and the spirit here and they can purchase the schnapps to take home. As a craft distillery, we can create small batches and offer seasonal products such as egg nog."

Another signature cocktail, the apple gin blossom, is created with Daisy’s Bathtub Gin. Bowser said when guests purchase the gin, the recipe for the cocktail is provided, too. “Daisy” refers to Daisy Grubb, a member of the Grubb family, who built the estate. Bowser said the gin is a bit different than most gins, which are clear. It has a golden hue with an aroma of spices including cinnamon, cardamom and citrus.

He explained that Act 39, which was passed by the state legislature in 2016, provided for craft distilleries.

"Craft distilleries are huge now. We thought we might like to get into it, so we tested it during the Faire. Initially we offered spirits from Hidden Still, Lebanon. They were well received so we decided to create our own distillery. Big Spring Spirits, Bellefonte, has helped us with the product," he said.

Some of Spirit Distillery’s products are crafted in-house, and some are crafted in conjunction with Big Spring. Bowser anticipates the distillery being self-sufficient by the end of December.

Spirits Distilling Co, joins Mount Hope’s other craft brands — Mount Hope Winery, Swashbuckler Brewing Co. (SBC), Lancaster County Cider and Rumspringa Brewing Co. The winery, cidery and SBC are located on the Mount Hope Estate grounds; Rumspringa is located in Intercourse.

"This allows us to vertically integrate our products," Bowser explained, "Swashbuckler Brewing’s new Neptune Imperial Stout is crafted onsite. It’s also the foundation for Spirit Distilling’s Imperial Stout Whiskey."

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