For Dick Griffin, the process of making whiskey is an art form. It was a lifelong dream realized in April 2016 when his Milesburg business, Griffin Whiskey, opened and others got to taste the old family recipe, one he had carried with him for more than 50 years.
But due to the health reasons, Griffin, 70, had to close the 517 Dell St. distillery in August. A fight with stomach cancer ended up in an extended recovery period. There wasn’t enough momentum, he said, to keep the business running under the added duress.
The equipment is still theirs. The corporation is intact. But “I just can’t do it physically,” he said. According to Griffin, who opened the craft distillery with two of his children, he had customers from as far as California try “Uncle Lum’s,” named for Griffin’s uncle Columbus who taught the younger Griffin how to clean a still and bootleg with the best of them way back when.
“We had a good business, I enjoyed Milesburg a lot,” he said. “I don’t know, I think we might have just fallen victim to the small business plague.”
There’s a sliver of hope for a revival. Griffin said since the parts are in place, he may try to reopen the business in a year’s time, but that it’s unlikely.
The quaint distillery was his fifth business. His dream, at first deferred, then realized, remains tucked inside the clear, corked bottles bearing his uncle’s nickname.
Though it’s bottled up again, he lived it. For Griffin, that’s enough.
“I learned my craft when I was about 15 years old,” he said. “I don’t think I make a whiskey the same way everybody else does, and I don’t think I ever could.”