Vt. breweries, wineries pave the way for distilleries - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. breweries, wineries pave the way for distilleries

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HARDWICK, Vt. -

Vermonters have long made a living on the landscape, and the quality reputation that comes with these products is fueling a new trend-- Vermont-made spirits.

"It's unique. People like seeing stuff made from Vermont. The products that Vermonters are making are really good," said William Goggins of the Vt. Department of Liquor Control.

In the last 10 years the state has licensed 16 distilleries, and 12 already have products on the shelves. The Vermont-made spirits feature local flavors like maple, berries, apples, and at Caledonia Spirits in Hardwick, it's all about the honey bees.

"It is interesting to see each person's stamp on their work," said Todd Hardie of Caledonia Spirits.

For the last four decades, Hardie's heart has been in beekeeping. And in just the last two years, he created a line of gin, vodka and cordials distilled from honey and sealed with a bees wax glaze.

"Distilling is rooted in agriculture, and we have a respect for that," Hardie said.

State officials say distilling has become big business here in just the last 10 years. The brands have established a reputation for quality and are becoming well-known beyond the Vermont border. Equipment and market research require a big upfront investment, so distilleries start with a more limited product line to see an immediate return.

"People have been clamoring for the brown spirits. We have been doing clear spirits. I think a lot of distilleries start with clear spirits because when you get into barrel aging it takes time and then it takes more time to bring the product to market," said Tanya Thomas of Caledonia Spirits.

Currently, Caledonia Spirits is working on two more kinds of liquor-- barrel-aged gin and whiskey-- which take much longer to produce.

"We have to have a diversity and a volume to do this work," Hardie said.

So far the state has stocked up on every Vermont-made liquor. The distillers fill weekly or monthly orders and the products are brought to the Department of Liquor Control in Montpelier, where they are dispersed among the state's 49 liquor stores.

Hardie insists the support of the Vermont community is the reason for their success. The reputation for Vermont-made goods and diversity of products helped create a niche in the artisan distilling industry.

"As long as people want to keep putting their backs into the business and doing what they can to make success out of their product, we will keep helping them," Goggins said.

Currently there is no law limiting the number of distilleries in Vermont, and state officials say they do not plan on it. They expect there is lots of room for growth.

These high quality spirits come at a high price. Some of the bottles are more than $50 apiece.

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