Dutch’s Spirit Lives On

Outside of the Bunker
Dutch Schultz’s Underground Bootlegging Operation. Click on the image to watch the video.

Dutch Schultz was known as the “Beer Baron of the Bronx” during the Prohibition years in the U.S. During that time, he ordered this underground bootlegging operation to be dug on a farm near Pine Plains, NY.

A look inside the bunker. The complex is up to four rooms deep in some areas.

That was 80 years ago, but the ruins of the subterranean bunker remain are soon to be a Prohibition museum and the new home of Dutch’s Spirits, an original NY Distillery. I had the opportunity to get an inside tour of the facility before restoration had begun.

Ariel Schlein, co-founder and president of Dutch’s Spirit, gives me a tour of the main room.

Plans for the museum are being lead by co-founder and president of Dutch’s Spirit, Ariel Schlein. After they procured the farm where the site is located, they contacted the New York Archaeological Society because they new they had something special. The Society agreed and began an archaeological survey that lasted eight months. When it was over, they it was entered into the record as a “Clandestine Bootleg Distillery” and said “The uniqueness of the site should provide added incentive for others in the field to recognize and investigate other possible bootleg-era sites in the Lower Hudson Valley.” Good luck! Most of the distilleries were destroyed by the IRS as they raided them. This one still exists only because it was built underground and would have cost more that it was worth to destroy it at the time of the raid.

I even got to do a little spelunking during my tour.

Dutch’s Spirit is currently producing a somewhat smoother version of the sugar wash moonshine that was once produced here. I had the opportunity to taste some when I met Ethan Kelley, who runs the distillery with Ariel and a third partner, Alex Adams. They also produce a splendid peach brandy and a line of boutique bitters as well. The three gentelmen believe in source everything they can locally. This is not just lip service to a buzz phrase. At full operation, all the grains that will go into the manufacture of their growing line of products will be grown by them on the surrounding farm. That is about as local and self-sustaining as you can get.

My personal favorite part of the tour that Ariel too me on was a chance to explore the network of escape tunnels that leads from the main rooms to the fields surrounding the bunker. So, of course, I donned a GoPro and hard hat to take a look. WATCH THE VIDEO

Citibikes Take Manhattan

Citibikes All in a Row
Citibikes All in a Row

New York has admitted that other cities might have the right idea. This came with the start of the Citibike program, a shared bike systems that allows members to pick up a bike at any one of hundreds of locations throughout the city and return the bike when they are finished. I’ve seen similar programs used successfully in several cities that I have visited all over the world including Paris, London, Zurich, Munich and Dublin. Most of these programs only require a credit or debt card and no type of membership. You just put your card in at one kioske and at a kioske at the point of pick up, and when you return the bike to the same or different kiosks, your time is recorded and you are charged accordingly.

This is not the case in NY. Citibikes require a membership  at $95 per year, which give you unlimited 45-min rides,  then a charge based on time of use.  There are a couple of special rates for 24hr rental and 7-day rental, but the average price comes up to about $9.00 per hour.

Does this mean the end of bike rental companies like the ones in Central Park? I don’t think so. These companies start at about $15 per hour. If you do the math, you would have to ride about 6.33hrs, in 45-min increments, to make the membership pay for itself. If you’re a visitor, do you really think you’re going to spend a day on a Citibike? And if you live here, you can buy a bike for the cost of the membership fee plus a little more.

A Citibike awaits its next customer.
In Battery Park, a Citibike awaits its next customer.

Is it worth it? Well, maybe, if you are cycling enthusiast and you just happen to be without your bike. But then again, I’m not sure a real cycling enthusiast would enjoy riding these bikes. They are not exactly the kind of bikes I see “enthusiasts” weaving in and out of traffic on, so these bikes might be a little too clunky for a true cyclist.

There are people who like the idea of using a bike to commute to work, but don’t have the space to store a bike.

For me, someone who usually prefers moving through the city on two feet rather than two wheels, I will probably pass. I’m not sure it’s worth the membership fee for the occasional cruse.

What about you?