5 Questions: Susan Johnson

Susan Johnson is the co-owner of Denning’s Point Distillery in Beacon, which opened in 2014.

susan johnsonWhat drew you to the distillery business?
My business partner [Karl Johnson] has a background in distilling, and I have a background in marketing and design. We’d been talking about it for many, many years and there was a moment where we both knew it was the right time. We were living in New Jersey but New Jersey’s laws didn’t allow distilleries. We were familiar with Beacon, and I love the community, so it made perfect sense.

What’s involved in distillation?
Grain is milled into a coarse meal and cooked, which turns the starch into sugars. That’s fermented with the help of proprietary whiskey yeast. We distill the fermented mash to separate the alcohol from the water and re-condense the alcohol. In the case of our bourbon, it’s aged in a charred American oak barrel. 

How do you decide what to produce?
We knew right off the bat that we wanted to produce bourbon, because we are both big fans of that spirit. But it requires a real time commitment, because after distilling, it has to age for at least two years. Our current bourbon is 6 years old. We knew in 2014 we wouldn’t be ready to sell bourbon for several years so we produced some unnamed spirits in the meantime, like gin and vodka. 

How did you manage the pandemic?
Because we’re a manufacturer of alcohol, we were considered “essential.” We closed our tasting room and bar but still manufactured spirits. We also gave out hand sanitizer, because that’s a natural byproduct of the distilling process. We couldn’t get bottles easily, so if you came to the distillery with your own bottle to be filled, you could take hand sanitizer and come back each week. We did that every weekend.

What’s ahead for the distillery?
There are always ideas for new products and ways to engage with the community. We want to provide a fun, interesting place for people to enjoy their time off and continue to produce the highest quality spirits from local grains.

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