Signing of a loan agreement for the Ponfeigh distillery, which will open in the former 84 Lumber


The whiskey is expected to flow at the old 84 Lumber in Somerset Township by next year.

Ponfeigh Distillery Founder Max Merrill on Thursday signed a $ 4 million loan agreement with the First Commonwealth Bank. He said the whiskey distillery, which is set to produce rye-aged gin and rum, is expected to open next summer.

“Everywhere I walk and everyone I talk to is so excited about this project,” he said, adding that hotel employees told him they were eager to talk to guests about a new place to visit.

Construction on the property is expected to begin by the end of August, Merrill said. Bigfoot Construction, of Windber, is the prime contractor. Owner Stephen McRae said construction is expected to take around nine months.

The total cost of the project is set at around $ 4.7 million, Merrill said, and funds have been raised from around 40 investors in Somerset, Cambria and Blair counties.

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Merrill said that once it is operational, the distillery will be able to produce more than 50,000 cases – or about 250,000 bottles – of alcohol per year.

“Whether we can produce that much will depend on demand,” he said. He added that the distillery was in talks with a major whiskey producer, but declined to reveal which company.

For starters, he said, it will employ 13 people, but hopes to have 30 workers within three years.

In addition to whiskey production, the distillery will feature an indoor / outdoor bar, a whiskey museum, food trucks and a stage that will feature “B-plus” numbers, as Merrill put it.

The distillery also works with Thomas Feed Mill to supply local grain for the distillation process.

“I see a huge impact for the farming community,” said Jason Thomas, general manager of the mill. “We will be able to store several grains to meet our mash bills.”

Merrill estimated that the distillery could have 40,000 visitors a year.

“We’re excited about the amount of volume we’re going to have here,” he said.

The design of the distillery will also include wood that was cut from Merrill’s farm in Summit and Northampton Townships.

“We’re getting a little rustic,” said project architect Chad Chalmers, of Wildman Chalmers Design in Pittsburgh.

First Commonwealth Bank Somerset County branch manager Kirsten Reed praised the scheme.

“I think this is really something Somerset needs,” she said.

Follow Eric Kieta on Twitter @EricKietaDA.

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