Family-Run Business

Three-star General Returns Home After 37 Years to Start Up Family-Run Distillery

For the first time since 1978, Lieutenant General Michael Basla, a retired senior cyberspace officer at the Pentagon, has returned to Cazenovia to live — and to start up a new local distillery that will produce whiskey, bourbon, gin and vodka and become a new member of the Cazenovia Beverage Trail.

Basla, along with his son-in-law Patrick Ruddy and his son Adam Basla (who currently lives in Germany), has just returned from a trip to Germany to purchase his distillery equipment, and plans to break ground on his new endeavor, Madison County Distillery, by the end of August.

This will be the second distillery to open in the Cazenovia area in less than one year.

“My vision for this land is to have it be self-sustaining and make it more beautiful than we found it,” said Michael Basla. “Pat [Ruddy] did some research and we found that the spirit industry is becoming very attractive. I was attracted to the farming opportunity. So we decided to combine the two and support the process of going from grain to glass.”

Lieutenant General Basla retired this past November as chief information officer of the Air Force located in Washington D.C. After growing up in Syracuse and attending the University at Albany, he taught high school math before entering the Air Force. After a long communications career field in the air force, Basla decided to retire, return to Cazenovia and give back to his hometown community.

“Upon retirement, I thought I really want to build something in America because I’ve seen over the years how much we have lost and more than anything I want to create jobs for Americans,” Basla said.

Madison County Distillery, located on the property formerly known as “The Maples” on Route 20 in the Town of Cazenovia, just across the village line, is Basla’s way of combining family values with economic rejuvenation through this agri-tourism project. Everything will occur on site: brewing, distilling, delivery, bottling, marketing, sales and accounting, he said.

“It’s the idea of synergizing business with family members. This distillery will create a perfect square to complete the Cazenovia Beverage Trail and attract visitors to Madison County,” said Ruddy, who will help run the business.

According to the site proposal submitted by Ruddy and Basla to the town, the distillery will consist of a new barn, new gravel drive, new culvert for stream crossing and a gravel parking lot for 21 cars. Site access will be from Route 20. The constructed building will be a Gable barn 70-by-54-by-33 feet, with artisan spirit processing and a small tasting room.

The distillery property, which is located on the historic registry, was formerly a dairy farm that has been used to feral hay over past years. The Basla/Ruddy clan is only the third family to ever live on this property, which was built in 1817, according to Basla.

“My vision is to create a family business that will continue for long after I’m gone. This will add a great deal to Cazenovia in the sense that Madison County Distillery will put Madison County on the map from a distilling point of view and create jobs for Central New Yorkers, Basla said.

The Madison County Distillery team recently returned from a visit to Eislingen, Germany, where they plan on procuring most of their distilling equipment from. The team will order from the German copper works manufacturer Carl Artisan Distillery Systems, which supplies custom-crafted artisan pot still systems for distilling practices. The two brothers that run this German manufacturing business are the fifth generation of their family to do so, which was one reason Basla chose to work with them.

Madison County Distillery plans to use JBF Stainless for all other equipment. The owner, Jake Feldmeier, lives in Cazenovia.

According to the site proposal, corn, potatoes, berries, apples, maple and barley all used in the production of spirits will be grown on property for the process of distilling spirits.

“Everything we create here we want to keep as natural as possible, because that is what we see Cazenovia as being,” said Ruddy.

“Additional tourists will come in to the area to see our distillery and other establishments in Cazenovia. This distillery will make the land more beautiful, help the economy and ultimately bring this land back to life,” said Basla.

They plan to break ground by end of August and anticipate beginning production by the fall.

Posted:  July 16, 2015