News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.


Gene Marra

Expanded Cooperstown Distillery Setting Sights on ‘Legacy’ Level

Expanded Cooperstown Distillery

Setting Sights on ‘Legacy’ Level

Coopers-town Distillery Proprietor Gene Marra discusses barrel storage with his key lieutenants, Head Distiller Daran Bottger, right, and Assistant Distiller Mike Deflumere. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

COOPERSTOWN –The rickhouse, where fine whiskey is aged, is bright, high-ceilinged, and there’s 7,000 square feet of it.

And the 550 barrels of aged whiskey it stores today – en route to 1,500 – will allow Cooperstown Distillery’s brands to compete with the best whiskeys in the world, proprietor Gene Marra will tell you.

“This elevates us to the status of the Big Boys,” said Marra, who, believing in the power of “The Cooperstown Brand,” has been operating and expanding prize-winning offerings from the plant at Railroad Avenue and Leatherstocking Street for seven-plus years now.

The 7,500-square-foot two-floor addition, begun last October, is among the largest private projects in the village in decades, and the first time the village has applied for a CDBG (federal Community Development Block Grant) – $100,000 – to help a private entity expand.

“It’s a big deal!” exclaimed Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch. “It’s important that businesses know the village is willing to work with them on this type of expansion and development.” Not just manufacturing, she added, “but apartments – in the right location – to increase our housing stock.”

Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky said the county IDA assisted in the financing, one, because it contributes to Cooperstown as a tourist destination and, two, the project doubles the distillery’s workforce from five to a dozen employees.

The expansion was further made possible through new investors Marra identified, who may be introduced at an official ribbon-cutting, delayed by the coronavirus threat to perhaps sometime in July.

“They very much believe in Cooperstown whiskey becoming a national, even international, brand in the near future,” the owner said.

The new initiative has been on Marra’s mind for a while, he said in an interview, but was inspired most recently in 2019 when Cooper’s Legacy Bourbon received 95 points – a “Liquid Gold” rating – in Jim Murray’s Whisky (the Brits spell it without an “e”) Bible.

Murray, who lives in Britain but has a second home in Frankfort, Ky., the heart of bourbon-making country, is the foremost arbiter of whiskey (the Yanks use an “e’) in the world, receiving several thousand bottles a year to test.

Marra, a restaurateur since he was 26 and later a vineyard owner as well, came to Cooperstown in 2009 as a consultant to Michael Moffat’s Blue Mingo restaurant, and returned in 2013 with wife Montell, daughter Clara and son Gabriel. (Clara, a rising junior, is working for her dad while waiting for college to reopen.)

Marra and his team – it is now led by Daran Bottger, Ames, head distiller, and Mike Deflumere, New Berlin, assistant distiller, both trained at Cornell – have developed their own brands from the start, beginning in 2013 with lilac-flavored Fenimore Gin, Glimmerglass Vodka and Beanball Bourbon.

The distillery’s last few years have been focused on the “Cooperstown Select Whiskey Portfolio” – a bourbon, rye, American whiskey and, Marra said, the “soon to be released,” Cooperstown Select Single Malt Whiskey, “an American interpretation of Scotch whiskey.”

The proprietor calls them “ultra-premium whiskeys,” which will retail for $50-70 a bottle.

“We’ve been making young whiskey,” Marra said, “which is good, but now we’re developing more aged whiskey, which is what the market is clamoring for. It establishes us as a noteworthy whiskey producer.”

What’s happening now “is about being able to have a library of aged whiskeys that can be released, with more character, more finesse, and will ultimately command a higher price in the market, particularly the five-year-old brands.”

The expanded brewery – it’s gone from one still, to two and, now, to four – is also introducing its Cane High Spiced Rum and an apple brandy, “made from locally sourced apples from Cherry Valley,” the publicity says.

All the grain used to distill these new products is Upstate grown, by century-old Inverness Farm in Canajoharie. Plus, the barrels that store the liquor are made of Upstate wood.

As it has in the past, tours will begin again, probably in July. “We see the rickhouse as a site for private events and parties,” Marra said. “It’s a viable reception/wedding site. There’s a lot of potential.”

By Labor Day, the distillery also plans to open the Saratoga Beverage Exchange on that
community’s Broad Street, similar to the Cooperstown Beverage Exchange at Main and Pioneer, and featuring such brands as Saratoga Revolutionary Rum, Victory Vodka and Back-Stretch Bourbon. “We’re super excited about that,” Marra said.

Cooperstown Distillery To Manufacture, Give Away Hand Sanitizer


Cooperstown Distillery

To Manufacture, Give

Away Hand Sanitizer

Cooperstown Distillery proprietor Gene Marra unveils the “Cooper’s Clean” label. Distiller Daran Bottger looks on. (Jim Kevlin/

COOPERSTOWN – Gene Marra, the entrepreneurial founder of Cooperstown Distillery, has found a need and plans to fill it.
Hand sanitizers.

He’s ordered 200 four-ounce bottle – they arrived today – and plans to fill it with a 160-percent alcohol
mixture. “Essentially vodka,” he said.

On Friday, he should be distributing them at no cost and see how it goes.

And the producer of Cooper’s Legacy Bourbon has come up with a logical name: Cooper’s Clean.

Construction Underway For Distillery Expansion

Construction Underway

For Distillery Expansion

Excavator Jesse Boest operates a backhoe behind the Cooperstown Distillery, where a $400,000 expansion is underway. The project, which began approximately two weeks ago, is headed by Tom Howard Construction. Among the plans are a large addition to the facility, including the installation of a “rick house,” a warehouse used for the storage and aging of whiskey. (James Cummings/
$100K Grant Spurs 2-Story Addition On Cooperstown Distillery Work To Begin This Month, Says Owner

$100K Grant Spurs

2-Story Addition On

Distillery Building

Work To Begin This Month, Says Owner

Flags behind Cooperstown Distillery at Railroad and Leatherstocking mark the extension of a two-story, 7,500-square-foot addition.  Distillery President Gene Marra expects work to begin this month.

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Gene Marra

COOPERSTOWN – Having received word of a $100,000 grant, Cooperstown Distillery President Gene Marra says construction will begin, perhaps as soon as next week, certainly this month, on a 7,500-square-foot two-story addition off the back of its Railroad Avenue plant.

“These funds will accelerate the construction of a new storage facility adjacent to our existing distillery in Cooperstown, as well as facilitate the hiring of new employees to staff the facility and support our expansion,” Marra said.  “We believe this project will be a true win-win for both the company and also for the Village of Cooperstown and the community.”

NYSEG Adds Power At Cooperstown Distillery


NYSEG Adds Power At

Cooperstown Distillery

Two NYSEG crews have been at the Cooperstown Distillery all morning, increasing the power flow to the expanding manufacturing operation. “They’re giving us the amps we need,” said distillery proprietor Gene Marra. In the past few months, the distillery has expanded from one to four stills, which require heat to create a range of products from Glimmerglass Vodka to Beanball Bourbon. The distillery is planning expanded parking and adding a second floor of the building at Railroad and Leatherstocking to meet the demand. (Jim Kevlin/
Cooperstown Distillery Unveils Plan To Double Its Plant, Hired 10 More

Cooperstown Distillery

Unveils Plan To Double

Its Plant, Hire 10 More

Cooperstown Distillery proprietor Gene Marra poses by one of two new stills installed in February in anticipation of doubling the size of the Railroad Avenue plant. (Jim Kevlin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta

COOPERSTOWN – With five years of success behind it, the Cooperstown Distillery is looking ahead and planning to more than double the size of its plant on Railroad Avenue.

“We outgrew our space many years ago,” proprietor Gene Marra told the Village Board on Monday, March 25. “Our production has been limited by our physical space.”

The planned 7,500-square-foot expansion will more than double the building’s existing footprint on the back portion of their Railroad Avenue lot, adding a “rackhouse” for storing barrels of whiskey and bourbon, as well as second-floor production space.

Cooperstown Distillery Plans To Double In Size

Cooperstown Distillery

Plans To Double In Size

Gene Marra, proprietor, Cooperstown Distillery, explained his plan to double the size of his distillery and add as many as 10 full-time jobs. The expansion, from 3,500 square feet to 7,500, including second floor production space. Marra, along with partner Andrew Gilcrest and Jody Zakrevsky, CEO, asked for “pre-pre-approval” from the Village in hopes that they would assist him in applying for a $60,000 grant to create jobs for “low-to-moderate income level” employees, meaning that the jobs created do not require a college degree. The board agreed to support the project, and asked him to give them a project outline to begin the application process. (Libby Cudmore/
Cooperstown Distillery Adds 2 New Stills, More

Cooperstown Distillery

Adds 2 New Stills, More

Cooperstown Distillery Distiller Daran Bottger, center, directs installation of a new 500-gallon still this morning at the Railroad Avenue plant. The still was one of two – the second is 150 gallons – installed to help meet demand, according to proprietor Gene Marra, at left.  The distillery also installed three new fermentation tanks.  Two lines in particular – Legacy Bourbon and Legacy Rye – sell out every year, Marra said. “It’s going to be a big turning point in who we are, what we are,” he said. The distillery celebrated its fifth anniversary in October. (Larissa Ryan/
Business Owners To Trustees: Bring Back Sandwich Boards

Business Owners To Trustees:

Bring Back Sandwich Boards

Gene Marra, owner of Cooperstown Beverage Exchange and the Cooperstown Distillery, reads a letter from his wife, Montell, asking the Cooperstown Village Board to reconsider their ruling making sandwich boards illegal. “If not for the ‘open’ flag, a pot of flowers and a sandwich board stating ‘complimentary tasting/ tours, a passerby might merely think our building was only a factory,” she wrote. “Please allow us a real-time way of attracting business.” Several local business owners spoke, and the board agreed to hold a public hearing on the law at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8 (Ian Austin/
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