Craft distilling is exciting. I am happy to see these small-scale producers, who put all their efforts into making something that tastes good, have success. I also enjoy when these folks are local/regional; it means we have an easier time getting them to come visit us in the Divine Wine Classroom to introduce themselves and share their passion with us.
For example, several years ago we welcomed Christian Stromberg, Founder and Head Distiller at Saxtons River Distillery in Brattleboro, Vermont. At that time, he presented his Sapling line of maple whiskeys, a maple liqueur, and PERC coffee liqueur. Now, maple syrup certainly has a distinct flavor to it and it shows up in their spirits when used, but it isn't overpowering. It's a smart use of a different ingredient and, most important to me, it was something unique that told us these spirits are definitely from Vermont.
I have actually had one visit to Brattleboro. The Greatest Wife In The World and I took our eldest (and only at the time) on a business trek to this town just over the Massachusetts border. The boy and I actually spent a lot of time driving away from Brattleboro to visit places like King Arthur Flour, Dartmouth, and the Basketball Hall of Fame. As a family we even found ourselves heading to Keene, New Hampshire to Elm City Brewhouse for dinner. Aside from the killer roadside BBQ joint Top of the Hill Grill, we didn't do a ton in town.
Little did I know, a guy was working out of his barn to develop this distillery that moved to Brattleboro a couple of years later in 2011! Since then, Christian has done very well for himself, gaining tremendous press for his work. Additionally, the new product added to the range of spirits does not involve maple or coffee, but rather botanicals.
Yes...gin! As you may have guessed in reading my posts, gin goes over incredibly well here. It was my lucky day when I was able to get my hands on a sample of Saxton River Snowdrop Gin (Thanks, Boss!). This is an American Dry Gin (patterned after the London Dry style) with a total of 18 different botanicals using vacuum distillation.
The usual coriander and juniper are present, but check out the rest of them on the bottle's inside label:
This is a darn good gin, too. We tested this out in a cocktail with Fever Tree's Mediterranean tonic and lime. The Italian herbs stood out when mixed with this specific tonic and even brought out an impression of lavender; Fever Tree does mention that the Mediterranean tonic is "made with floral botanicals" so it wouldn't surprise me if lavender is one of those flowers in the recipe. The other thing I like about the Snowdrop Gin (about $35, by the way) is that it is bottled at 89 Proof. It may seem trivial, but bottling higher than the usual 80 or even 84 Proof allows the delicate botanicals (such as citrus) to hold up better in a cocktail when diluted by the tonic. It makes a difference.
Saxtons River also has a very informative web site, including info on which states carry their products. I encourage you to visit them.
What are your favorite local distilleries that have made a name for themselves already, or should receive more recognition? I would love for you to comment below or post to my Facebook page.