RICHMOND, Vt. (WCAX) Three National Guard members have come together to help distilleries in the state. Their Barrels are helping add flavor to your favorite liquor of choice and they're Made in Vermont.
If there's three guys that could figure out how to build a barrel and do it right, it's these longtime members of the Vermont National Guard.
"We use the skill sets that the Army gave us and we're applying that towards managing a business now," said Tony Fletcher, who along with Josh Waterhouse and Mac Broich, started Green Mountain Grain and Barrel 18-months ago.
"We'd all been in the woodworking and remodeling business as a hobby," Fletcher said.
"It seems second nature. We've been working together in the military long enough together that it just seems like we're back there to normal," Waterhouse said.
The three were deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. When they returned from overseas, they were asked to make a barrel for friends who were starting a distillery.
"The first barrel we made, we thought it would hold water. We did everything we thought was right -- and not even close," Fletcher said.
"There were a few times where it was frustrating, but it was enjoyable watching it all come together and figuring it out and seeing the final product ending up the way that it did," Waterhouse said.
That barrel was the first of about 30 that the company has made since it started part-time operations. There's several steps that go into the producing process. Today, Waterhouse is making the heads of the barrel. As for Fletcher -- he gets fired up when it comes to one of the final steps. The char he's putting on the barrel filters out impurities and adds color and flavor to the liquor inside. "It's kind of satisfying to have the flames go out, and it's only a couple of steps away from being put into production," Fletcher said.
The first 30-gallon barrels Green Mountain Grain and Barre produced are with Mad River Distillers, who should be releasing the bourbon pretty soon. "We're excited to see what it's like and we have kind of a lot of other barrels out there right now aging or in the process of aging right now," Fletcher said.
When the guys aren't making barrels from scratch using Vermont white oak, they're refurbishing used barrels by scraping out what's inside and re-charring them. These barrels that are ready to go back in service are a reminder that the men behind their reconditioning could go back into service at anytime.
"Josh and Mac are still in with me. There's a good possibility that one or more of us will deploy again in the near future," Fletcher said.
Three men who defend the spirit of our fine nation, making one-of-a-kind barrels, enhancing the quality of fine spirits.