BY ANGELO J VERZONI STAFF WRITER
March 31, 2015
BIDDEFORD — A York County native is preparing to open Biddeford’s first distillery.
Darren Case, who is from Wells, grew up in Kennebunkport and now lives in Cape Porpoise, said last Thursday that his first goal is to have Round Turn Distilling selling bottles of gin by the summer, and after that he’ll aim to open the Pepperell Mill distillery to the public for tours and tasting.
After spending five years living and working in Brooklyn, the 35-year-old entrepreneur said his desire to start a business in Maine is what drove him to Biddeford last year.
When asked why he wanted to open a distillery, Case said he’s been home-brewing beer for decades but always preferred liquor, so when about two years ago he learned “distilling on a small-scale was even possible,” he decided to go for it. Case also said that after working as a software engineer for several years, he wanted to start creating something less ephemeral than websites.
“I was drawn to the idea of small-scale manufacturing, making something with my hands – something real, something that would bring people pleasure,” he said. “There would be that immediate satisfaction of saying, ‘Here, I made this,’ and having someone try it and having someone like it.”
Case admits gin isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; he said vodka, whiskey and rum – which he may take a shot at distilling later down the road – dominate the market. But Case said gin’s versatility, which gives the distiller an “opportunity to put together a recipe involving all the different botanical flavorings,” is what attracted him to it.
“Gin is in some ways the lone survivor of that mostly European tradition of adding herbs and spices and roots to add flavor to alcohol,” he said.
In an email last Thursday, Mayor Alan Casavant said he thinks Round Turn Distilling will be a “good addition” to Biddeford.
Daniel Stevenson, the city’s economic and community development director, shared a similar sentiment. “We see this as a growing industry and the Economic Development Office welcomes it in Biddeford,” he said.
Case, who currently runs the distillery on his own but hopes to hire employees in the future, said he’s excited to be in the city at a time when its downtown is on the upswing.
Growing up in the area, Case said his grandfather used to say, “Back in the day, downtown Biddeford was the place to be. It was a swanky, bustling, thriving town,” and it seems to be clawing its way back to that rank.
“Suddenly there’s this very visible, tangible change,” said Case. “It’s cool to think of it coming back to that, to downtown Biddeford being the place to be.”