Next time you're mixing up a cocktail and thinking about giving it a local touch, consider one company trying to capture the Vermont landscape in a bottle.
It may look like there are only a handful of employees at Caledonia Spirits and Winery, but really there are thousands of buzzing, busy ones. It's the worker bees that are behind their newest line of spirits and wines.
"We know honey. We understand raw honey," said the companies founder, Todd Hardie. Hardie has been working with bees for 46 years. He also has a history with spirits. "In the 1800s my family started a distillery in Scotland," he said.
Hardie combined those two passions to stir up the company's newest products -- Barr Hill Honey Vodka and Gin. "The honey makes it softer, it rounds out the edges of the alcohol. When you respect the honey and the bees, the product is magical," he said.
It's a month long process to make honey vodka. Juniper berries are added to the vodka to make gin. The spirits are like cousins. Hardie says the process his company uses is one of the oldest in the books -- it all starts with honey wine that's boiled.
"The force of heating and cooling to break that beer or wine into its different flavors. Then we keep the flavors we want and make vodka or whiskey out of those and the rest of the flavors we discard," said winemaker and distiller, Joe Buswell.
Flavors have different boiling points and are extracted at different times. Just take one whiff and you'll know what flavor you're dealing with. Buswell says he can tell simply by smelling if that flavor is worth keeping. "We are trying to isolate the vanilla and candy components that are there," Buswell said.
The right flavors get blended together to make the perfect honey vodka. Retailing at around 60-dollars for a large bottle and 35 for the small. Hardie says it's a bit costly because of the worker bees and making sure their keepers get a fair price. "Bees are having a hard time, so there are less and less bees available," he said.
The gin starts with locally grown corn instead of raw honey, and costs less -- at 18 and 36 dollars. The gin and vodka have only been available for two months now and are flying off the shelves as fast as they're putting them on.
"Vermont is a very special place with its relationship with the land and farmers and that gets translated into our beverages," Hardie said.
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