Maximilian Merrill’s Pennsylvania roots run deep. When he discusses Ponfeigh Distillery, his upcoming business venture outside Somerset, his conversation is peppered with references to the rich history of distilling threaded through the I-68 region. “I want to bring it back,” he says, “a lot of that history.”
Ponfeigh Distillery will continue a legacy Merrill has been steeped in since childhood. His family has owned and operated Ponfeigh Farms for over 70 years. In its early days, the farm was a favorite meeting place for county commissioners, sheriffs and even railroad barons who wanted to “drink their libations out of the public eye,” as Merrill puts it. Growing up, he would discover old rye bottles in the rafters, woodstove, outhouse and basement of the family cabin, left over from those nights of secretive celebrations.
Merrill’s fascination with this history of the area led to the creation of Ponfeigh Distillery, an ongoing project that will bring locally-sourced and distilled rye whiskey to the I-68 Region. He is currently in the process of closing on a former 84 Lumber property just outside Somerset, and plans to start renovations in spring of 2020. But Merrill isn’t waiting until the remodeling is completed to start crafting his whiskeys.
He says that he plans on “taking four tractor trailer loads of Pennsylvania rye” to a distillery in North Carolina, where he will distill two hundred barrels and bring them back to Somerset to age. The distillery hopes to start with four varieties: Monongahela rye, Maryland rye, a maple syrup rum and rye-aged gin. When Ponfeigh Distillery opens, these flavors will be bottled and ready to taste.
As he embarks on the journey of transforming Ponfeigh Distillery from dream to reality, Merrill looks forward to what the future has to offer. The workforce, he says is “hungry for great things” and he’s impressed by “how welcoming they are to great ideas.”
This local support inspires Merrill and ensures him that Ponfeigh Distillery will be an important addition to the I-68 region. While Ponfeigh Distillery will contribute to this regional creativity, the extension of Route 219 will connect its products with traffic from I-68, providing access to markets and customers across the northeastern U.S. “There’s a lot of momentum,” Merrill acknowledges, and he is excited to tap into the increased tourist market and to build name and brand recognition.
Ponfeigh Distillery is coming to the I-68 region—and so should your business. Learn more about the properties and business opportunities available on the 1-68 Regional Alliance website.