Matchbook Distilling Co. Custom Spirits

The female-led distillery is looking to shake up the spirits world

Leslie Merinoff is tired of typical run-of-the-mill liquor stores, where the shelves, she argues, are filled with the same bottles available everywhere else, most likely containing the same dozen or so recipes.

Though the U.S. spirits industry is witnessing a "craft boom," the scales are still very much tipped toward big players who can afford to invest enough coin to achieve scale. The small producers? Not so much. Luckily, Merinoff is out to change all that.

She's launching Matchbook Distilling Company, a bespoke craft distillery and incubator debuting this summer. Built for the next generation of spirits producers, the venture is based in Greenport, New York, a 19th-century whaling village that's now home to a few dozen wineries and breweries. The idea is simple: a distillery that produces small-batch custom spirits from recipe to packaging for a varied set of clients who could include private collectors, enthusiasts, brands, bars and restaurants, and start-ups.

On the client side, no expertise is necessary—just an idea and a dream. "By building this model," Merinoff explains, "what we're saying is you are free to come in and experiment. The only cash you have to lay out is the recipe development and production for that one batch, and then you can move on. You're not going to be tied to any massive investment that's gonna keep you up at night."

She goes on, "I want to get people out of their comfort zone and to stop just thinking that the only thing available for them to make is the same dozen recipes that are out there. We need to push the bar." 

The distillery has 38,000 square feet of space housing state-of-the-art equipment that can produce pretty much anything clients come up with. The team behind it also has the longer-term vision of eventually opening the concept in other burgeoning food and beverage locales around the country.

Matchbook supplies the logistics, sourcing, compliance and the like to help people coax new beverage expressions into existence. The Matchbook team also has taken over an adjacent hotel property, The Lin Beach House, which is being run as a full hotel but also features a tasting room for the distillery, as well as a cocktail bar.

The ingredients are in place. The vision has taken shape. Now all Matchbook needs are the dreamers to step up with ideas we all can drink to.

"We need to push forward a spirit of adventure," Merinoff says. "Our mission here is to lead a new generation of spirits producers forward with arms locked together."  

Andy Meek is a writer based in Memphis. Follow him on Twitter at @aemeek.