In July of 2014, Darren Case left a lucrative career at Grey Advertising in Manhattan to return to Maine. The Kennebunkport native, who taught himself computer programming, was bent on learning a new algorithm: distilling.
“I read all the old books from the early 19th century and pre-prohibition,” said Case, including the Jerry Thomas Bartender Guide, all the rage in 1887.
This spring Case launches Round Turn Distilling, a gin startup located in Pepperell Center on the Saco River. Adjacent to Banded Horn Brewery and across from the weeks-old Portland Pie Co, the newcomer is in good company in this mill on the move.
Named after a term for a nautical knot, Round Turn tightens Maine’s grip on the handcrafted, small batch spirits sector.
“It’s exciting to feel that I am part of a resurgence in a very traditional American industry,” said Case, inspired by Luke Davidson’s Maine Craft Distilling in Portland. “Distilling and spirit production is what started this country. There used to be tens of thousands of distillers in the U.S. Today there are fewer than 1,000,” said Case.
Why gin? He wants to perfect the juniper-derived botanical before tackling more complicated concoctions like whiskey. “My focus is to make a really fantastic gin for now.” And bring back the traditional martini, made with gin, not vodka.
Somewhere between Beefeater and Hendricks, lies Round Turn. Not top shelf, or artisanally ($$) out of reach.
“I don’t want this to be a special occasion gin,” said the steely eyed entrepreneur. “But the type that you would want in your gin and tonic on a hot summer day.”
Though there have been many a gale to weather, Round Turn should set sail soon. Case expects to receive state approval to make and bottle the stuff in April. And suspects his 300-gallon copper still handmade in Etna will be humming soon.
Round Turn will have a tasting room and maybe, one day, a cocktail bar. “That seems to be what Biddeford is missing,” said Case.
Of all the gin joints in the world, we will soon walk into his. Cheers!