The fall weather is making me sound repetitive with my expressions of how each weekend surprises us by delivering yet another day with optimal riding weather, but here we were yet again staring at another day late in October with ideal riding conditions. Today we are off to Flemington, NJ to visit the Skunktown Distillery.
For us, it meant starting off with the most picturesque part of the trip by traveling through the Delaware Water Gap along route 611. It’s a beautiful area mentioned many times before in some of our other ride reports. We then crossed the Portland Bridge into NJ and traveled east on route 46 along the Delaware River. This is the start of the highway which is known as its west end and it runs all the way east to the George Washington Bridge. In the area we’re in today, it is mostly serene, but if followed eastward enough, it’ll grow into quite a busy route.
Not far from the border of Pennsylvania, the highway takes you by the famous Hot Dog Johnny’s. A hot dog stand from the 1940’s that’ll show up on any discussion around the internet regarding nationally famous hot dog establishments. As always, the place was packed as they stood online for their freshly made birch beer, buttermilk, and of course their hot dogs.
Several miles further east we took route 31 south which we’d stay on all the way to the town of Flemington. Route 31, originally called route 30, was constructed from 1927 to 1935 and travels from White Township, NJ down to the capital of the state, Trenton, a total of 49 miles. It was changed from its original name of route 30 to avoid a conflict with another route 30 in southern NJ. This highway won’t win any scenic awards by motorcyclists, but this far north it’s nice enough to roll along through with many pretty areas to turn off to as can be seen with Googlemaps. Just when the highway widens and begins to get a bit busy, we’re ready to turn off and find our distillery off of Minneakoning Road. Unlike most of the distilleries we visited this season, this area is not surrounded by farms with streams and other gems of nature and there’s nothing historic about the buildings. But all that is made up for by the quality of the spirits we were about to encounter.
Owners Caine Fowler and Paul Hyatt, a former computer IT employee and a tile setter, respectively, decided to take on the challenge of creating great liquor from local chemical free ingredients and our impression is they couldn’t have been more successful. Skunktown was the original unofficial name of the home of these gentleman which became Sergeantsville, NJ. They loved the history of their town and decided to carry the Skunktown name forward as the name of their new establishment.
We were fortunate to walk in at a moment when others were just leaving and so the two of us were privileged to have Caine give us a tour of our own. His equipment appeared modest compared to some of the giant apparatuses we’ve seen in other distilleries but that just equates to smaller quantities and has nothing to do with the type of quality you can achieve. There was something about the way Caine spoke during the tour that made me feel that these spirits were going to be something special.
We sat down and ordered two flights which included a vodka, a spicy vodka, an oaked rum, a silver rum, a rye, and a peach moonshine. The craftsmanship of these spirits were among the best we’ve tasted. We can only think of two other places this season that could match this distillery. The most intriguing to us was the spiced vodka. A vodka infused with the Carolina Reaper, the world’s hottest confirmed pepper. Caine soaks the peppers in a jar of vodka and with only two shots worth added to five gallons, makes an incredibly spiced drink which we felt was perfect for the fall and winter season. A truly unique drink which may cause you to turn the heat down in the winter with enough sips.
Our trip back came with a diversion out to Hackettstown, NJ to see an old friend for the first time in at least 35 years. We learned during the trip he would be in that area, something that can only happen with today’s social media. We turned off of route 31 onto East Asbury Anderson Road which then intersected into route 57. The fall colors added their artistic touch as we passed by farms and the nearby Point Mountain Reservation.
The Fall air mixing with the roads of Warren County were a perfect match for a ride to a very fine distillery. Our stay in Hackettstown lead us to a ride in the dark to get home as our lights cut through the darkness of this moonless evening.