Entertainment NewsEntrepreneursInterviews

[INTERVIEW] New England Sweetwater Farm & Distillery – Two Sisters Continuing The Family Business

Copy link

Distilleries in New Hampshire have been found throughout the state but there is one that has a unique story.  

New England Sweetwater Farm & Distillery can be found in your very own backyard. The distillery is owned by two sisters who have not only changed history but have decided to continue the family business. 

Alisa Lawrence and Nilaja Young are two sisters who both decided that continuing the family business was the only way to go when their cousin approached them with the key. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, they would’ve never thought that they would leave their hometown to create a home in New Hampshire. 

Before the big move to New Hampshire, both Alisa and Nilaja had careers that were also a passion of theirs but could also create a business that would bring customers coming back. Alisa Lawrence was in the music business who turned her managerial skills to work when deciding to be apart of the distillery. Nilaja Young was in the medical industry who could make the best concoctions that leaves the people wanting more. With zero skills in understanding how to create beautifully made drinks from whiskey, vodka and rum the sisters sat down to understand the business that their cousin Robert placed in their hands. 

New England Sweetwater Farm & Distillery was founded in 2015 by their cousin Robert Patton-Spruill who spent many of his childhood in the distillery with his grandparents learning the trade. When Robert decided that he wanted to sell the company he knew that he still wanted to business to remain in the family which is why he called on both Alisa and Nilaja to buy the company. 

With both sisters married, having careers, children & loving the life that they have built for themselves in New York they still couldn’t say no to what they knew would be a lot of work but something special in the end. In 2020, the sisters and their husbands purchased the distillery that they will continue to build for generations to come. 

It’s more than just a distillery but its based on family and love. Each drink that is made, is made from a place of passion, commitment & the love that you have for your family. They are committed to continuing the legacy and with each drink produced, they are constantly changing the game being the first black women to own a distillery. 

Parlé had the opportunity to speak with both Alisa and Nilaja in understanding and knowing more about the business and the creation of each drink. We were able to get to the bottom of the distilleries in New Hampshire. 

Distilleries in New Hampshire

Parlé: Understanding that both of you guys were in different professions before taking on the family business. Were you guys hesitant or nervous about the transition? What were some of the emotions behind learning the craft of distillery? 

Nilaja: Well I guess I can start. Prior to running my own business, I managed a health clinic for 10 years for underserved people in Harlem. Before the pandemic, two years prior to, I started in the pharmaceutical business. I know that the sales card, the management card it helped my contribution to the business here. 

Alisa: My business was music management, artist management, entertainment and retail management. I have about 20 years of that under my belt and I am for sure that helps us tremendously in transitioning from one product to another. We were able to bring those skills and make sure that we brought it to our liquor. We were definitely nervous to do this, it wasn’t something that we were familiar with. It was a family business, our cousin had been doing it but it’s kind of like having that cousin who was always doing something. We said, you know what let’s do this. We decided because it was the pandemic, everyone during that time had a hobby or something that they were trying to get into. 

Nilaja: It was a go at the same time, kind of like a no brainer. It was also the uncertainty of the business sustaining but at the same time we had three products to start with and we knew where we wanted to take the business. 

Parlé: Is it just whiskey that you guys produce or are there other liquors joining the party? 

Nilaja: Oh boy! So yes, we have whiskey but we also have rum, vodka, moonshine and then we also have a libations ready to drink cocktail that we sell, along with homemade BBQ sauce. We’re like a one stop shop. 

Alisa: Tequila is the question that we get all the time about when are we going to start making tequila. We don’t make tequila right now but you never know. Maybe soon. 

Parlé: What is the process in making your liquor? 

Nilaja: Well, it’s super labor and intensive but it starts off with the mash of whatever we are making. So it could be corn for the moonshine, it could be apples and potatoes for the vodka whichever it is, it all goes into a mash and then it goes to a mash tun. After we place it into the mash tun, we cook it for a certain amount of time and a certain temperature then we transfer what is called the wash, which is the liquid from the mash, we transfer that into the fermenter and it sits in there for about a week. Anywhere from at least 3-5 days and we have to pitch yeast into it which brings out the sugars and that’s how you create the alcohol pretty much. After it sits in the fermenter we transfer it to the stills where the alcohol is pulled out of the wash that we created. It does take a full week for the whole process to take place and depending on if it’s a brown liquor or if it needs to go into a barrel, it’ll go into a barrel after and it will age. The inside of the barrels that we have are burned on the inside so it allows the liquor to gain it’s color. But if it’s a clear liquor then it will just go into a different type of container and just sit there. 

Parlé: So being sisters, what is it like working together being black women while in a business that is mainly a space for men?

Alisa: I think there’s not that many women in the distillery business. First of all, people didn’t think about it. It wasn’t something that was talked about and has now become something that is being brought to mainstream. So I think that, I think its much like being a chef, its been there and we’ve been doing it for some time now. Although it’s predominately around men being in this business, we haven’t had any pushback and a lot of help as well. 

Parlé: During the pandemic, you guys lost your parents. What was it like being in the business but still grieving over the lost of your parents? 

Alisa & Nilaja: It was definitely a rollercoaster we has so many highs but we also have so many lows, lows being their deaths. I think being so ingulfed in the work because it could stop we just had to keep going. They were our biggest cheerleaders, our mom actually gave us our first 25,000 dollars to start. It was a no brainer that we had to keep going, everything that we do, every good thing that happens even every bad thing that happens we just think about them and that they are our angles. Every bottle that we make is because of them, just like my cousins who founded the business and learning from our grandpa, those angels and our ancestors keep us going. 

Parlé: What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think about the distillery and your liquor? 

Alisa & Nilaja: Family. 

Alisa: We are surrounded by it. We have our kids working in the building, our husbands distilling and heavy lifting when we can’t. It’s all legacy and generations that will be in this business. So every time we think about the distillery, we think about family because we are surrounded by it. 

Parlé: Do you guys ever have moments to where you feel as though you would want to go back to your previous careers?

Alisa: I believe we probably have those moments when we are tired but I wouldn’t change anything. If we were  10 years younger it would be different. We understand the anomaly that we are in, we are black women in this space that has been dominated by other demographics. But we also are here to stay and we have the support within our business to continue. 

Parlé: I know that I am a person that loves liquor that is easy on the throat, very smooth. Will you consider your liquor to one smooth? 

Alisa: Oh yes, that is the sentiment. I love when I see the women try our whiskey. They are automatically against it but when we ease it on them they become shocked to taste our smooth it is.  We make a maple honey and chocolate version which is what we use to introduce people to whiskey as well. 

Parlé: What are the types and flavors of liquor that you guys have? 

Alisa & Nilaja: We have our American single malt (which is a scotch) and a Bourbon whiskey that comes in a maple honey chocolate flavor. Along with our Gold rum & spice, we also have a vodka line, that we make with apples and potatoes so most of our vodka is extremely smooth. We also make a  cucumber vodka as well. Our moonshine are int he flavors of apple pie and sweet tea which are extremely tasty. Then we come to our Ready to drink cocktail line in the flavors of  lemon drop, Bloody Mary and Rum punch. All of our liquors are made from all natural ingredients. 

Parlé: Where can we purchase or find your products? 

Alisa: You can order online to have it shipped directly to you. If you stay in Brooklyn, you can visit the Happy Court Brooklyn where she can also ship the orders to you. If you live in New Hampshire, you can always visit our tasting rooms, where you can also tour the location which is open Friday and Sunday. We aren’t dismissive of the travelers that may come this way that might get here on a Monday or Tuesday and would like to taste our liquor, we can accommodate them as well if they just give us a heads up. Also our liquor will be in the stores if you live in New Hampshire, you’re able to pick that up as well. 

Alisa and Nilaja have created a business that pertains to family and surrounded by love each day as they make their liquor and moonshines. Although they are black women in a predominately male environment they do not let that phase them as they continue to bring the best drinks to their customers cups. 

We were extremely excited and happy to share the story of these amazing women. If you’re ever in New Hampshire or decide to take a flight or drive make sure you come out and support these ladies and their family business. 

You can check out their website for more information. 

Readers May Also Like: beyonce concert

Beyoncé Selling ‘Listen Only’ Concert Tickets? Fans Sound Off

Lizzo dancers

Lizzo Being Sued For Allegedly Sexually Harassing Her Dancers

nicki minaj swatting

Nicki Minaj Becomes Victim Of Swatting Prank Once Again

DJ Envy

DJ Envy Ran A Real Estate Ponzi Scheme? Investors File Lawsuit

Copy link
Skip to content