By Cyndi Zaweski
Downtown Riverhead will soon be home to a small batch spirits tasting room. Montauk Distilling Co. is eyeing a fall opening in the former Riverhead Fire Department headquarters on East Second Street — the same building that is home to North Fork Brewing Company.
In the coming weeks, Montauk Distilling owner Leucio Iacobelli plans to begin renovations on a 3,000-square-foot garage space, transforming it into a fully operational distillery and nautical-inspired tasting room.
In addition to its flagship Sunburn Rum, its Black Sail Aged Rum and its 71st Regiment Gin, Iacobelli said the tasting room would offer local craft beer and possibly wine. The spirits will be sold by the flight or mixed with signature cocktails.
“We want it to be a local joint where people can come and relax,” Iacobelli said. “Everyone should feel welcomed to hang out here.”
Iacobelli, who works in the financial services industry, founded Montauk Distilling Co. in 2013 out of his love for distilling and fermentation. Growing up in Queens, he recalls making wine at the family home with his Italian father and uncles.
“It is a combination of art and science,” he said. “I have always enjoyed creating something that people can enjoy.”
Iacobelli, who splits his time between Queens and Westhampton Beach, initially began distributing to liquor stores and New York area restaurants with plans to eventually open a tasting room. After several years of waiting for the right location, Iacobelli jumped at the chance to open in a building with a rich history.
“It has taken a long time to get here, it’s been a labor of love like any dream,” he said. “I think that Riverhead is on the upswing. Home is going to be Riverhead.”
Iacobelli is hoping to open Montauk Distilling Co.’s first tasting room in October with indoor/outdoor seating and a beach-chic vibe to match its mermaid clad rum bottles. Its distilling operation, which is currently based out of Westfield, New York, will also be moved to the Riverhead location within the coming weeks, he said. The stills will be in the back of the tasting room, where patrons can see up close how the spirits are made.
Montauk Distilling Co. has taken over the space previously leased by Long Beard Brewing Co. Long Beard had been leasing the space for nearly five years, though its tasting room never opened. Its owners didn’t respond to inquiries about the future of the brewery this week.
With the opening of Montauk Distilling Co., the former firehouse will be home to two craft beverage tasting rooms. North Fork Brewing Co. opened on the west side of the building last June.