South Jersey receives much acclaim for its microbreweries and agricultural-rich wineries, but there’s a growth of nano-distilleries producing high-quality, small batch spirits deserving recognition. This passion project by husband-and-wife team, Stephen and Natasha Vitale, is rooted in the former’s dream of making his own bourbon, which led to the purchase of a beautiful property in historic Salem, NJ in 2017 to channel their entrepreneurial energy. Built in the late 1700s as a private residence, then repurposed by the Free Masons in 1959 as Excelsior Lodge No. 54, the Vitales have transformed the space into stately and cozy rooms befitting their craft.
The distillery’s moniker is a play on the phrase “Just a Tad More, Please 🥃,” which we at #OpenSouthJersey certainly muttered more than once while visiting on a chilly Saturday afternoon, the only day of the week when tours, tastings, & cocktails are available from 1-5 p.m. (both proprietors work full-time: Stephen is a Chemical Engineer and Natasha is in Sales/Marketing at Campbell’s Soup). Upon entering the majestic home on Salem’s Main Street after ringing the bell, we were pleasantly greeted by Tasha, who proceeded to give us a thorough & educational tour of the surprisingly succinct Distilling space in the back, for which they received their license in April 2019 to produce Rum and Bourbon. Grains are locally sourced: the Rye & Barley from Shiloh, NJ (Rabbit Hill Malthouse) and the Corn from Hopewell, NJ. Rum is aged 6 months while Bourbon, per law, sleeps in charred new American Oak barrels (from Appalachia) for 1 year before bottling.
The $5 tour ended in the bar/shop area with a tasting of Tadmore’s 4 nuanced offerings: Fledgling (clear spirt that’s the starting point of Bourbon before aging), Bourbon Whiskey, Bad Omen White Rum (distilled from sugar + molasses), & Aged Rum. While each was uniquely captivating on the palate, the spirits really shine through the reasonably-priced handcrafted Cocktails on offer ($7) that incorporate freshly-squeezed citrus and homemade simple syrup. We savored the drinks in the handsomely-appointed, elegant room with the lit fireplace, a soothing setting for sipping while peeking out the large windows from the restored, plush sofa and library-esque leather chairs. The signature Whiskey Sour with Fledgling was refreshingly tart and balanced; the Rum Punch with Bad Omen transported us to the Caribbean with its pineapple & grenadine; the classic Old Fashioned (by request) with Bourbon and an ice ball had a spicy kick with Angostura bitters nicely garnished with top-tier, dense and delicious Luxardo cherries. Tasha, meanwhile, was incredibly gracious and hospitable throughout the experience, relaying stories of the house restoration, family life, and that day’s music selection.
Bottles of Aged Rum are now available for purchase, while the next batch of Bourbon will be available in early February. Go to www.tadmoredistilling.com for general information on visiting hours and reservations, the property’s history, a summary of their spirits, and current bottle releases.
Tip: before heading to the distillery, visit Fort Mott only 6 miles away for a walk and a taste of history before imbibing!
Story & photos by Darren DeBlasi