News & Events

By in Media & Events Comments Off on Mad River Rye Finished in Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Barrels.

Mad River Rye Finished in Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Barrels.

The Mad River Valley Meets Napa Valley

In the almost-famous Mad River Valley, five villages and two ski areas abut rolling farmland along the flank of Vermont's Green Mountains. And since 2014, the Mad River Valley has become known for whiskey, among other grain-based libations.

Mad River Distillers ferments, distills and bottles a variety of whiskeys at their Warren, VT-based farm for distribution in New England, New York and California. One of the perennial best sellers is Revolution Rye, a whiskey distilled with roasted 'chocolate' rye from the Northeast, which adds a complex and aromatic cocoa/mocha note to the spicy nature of the organic rye grains.

A collaboration between the distillery and Caskforce

In 2018, Nick O’Connell approached Mad River Distillers with the idea for a unique collaborative whiskey, and the distillery jumped at the opportunity. O’Connell is the founder of Caskforce, a Boston-based retailer that curates cask- finished whiskey. He had his eye on some Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon barrels and thought a potential pairing between the wine barrels and Mad River Distillers Revolution Rye would work well together. Silver Oak ages their Cabernet in toasted American oak barrels, which both complements and contrasts the charred American oak in which the whiskey is matured.

O'Connell sourced the barrels and shipped them to Vermont, where Mad River Distillers filled the previous red wine-filled casks with aged Revolution Rye, a unique style whiskey with a rare 100 percent rye mashbill. With only five barrels aged in the Mad River Distillers rickhouse, the new limited release showcases the strengths of both the wine and the whiskey.

“I THOUGHT THE DARK BERRY AND WHITE PEPPER NOTES OF THE SILVER OAK CABERNET CASKS WERE THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO THE RICH COCOA NOTES OF MAD RIVER’S RYE WHISKEY,” O'CONNELL NOTED.

Mad River Distillers head distiller Alex Hilton agreed; ”The Silver Oak Cellars barrels heightened the roasted notes of the chocolate rye in our mashbill, while adding a lush velvet smoothness to the mouthfeel of the whiskey.”

The Mad River Rye Whiskey Finished in Silver Oak Barrels is priced at $54.99 per bottle and available beginning Friday, November 20 in Massachusetts and Vermont.

In MA:

November 20 - Dec 3 Exclusive at at Post Road Liquors in Wayland, Mass., and Upper Falls Beverage in Needham, Mass.

December 4th Onward Post Road Liquors, Wayland, Upper Falls Beverage, Needham, Julio's Liquors, Westborough. Check back for more retailers.

In VT: November 20 Onward

Mad River Taste Place, 89 Mad River Green, Waitsfield, VT 05673. Open Mon-Sat 10 am-6 pm

Mad River Distillers, 137 St. Paul St. Burlington, VT 05401. Open Wed-Sun 2-6 pm

By in Blog Comments Off on Wedding Gift Ideas

Wedding Gift Ideas

It’s wedding season! If you (or someone you know) is getting married soon, then chances are you’re in need of a few gift ideas. 

Gifts are typical for the best man, maid of honor, wedding party, ushers, other wedding helpers, parents of the bride and groom, and of course, the bride and groom themselves. So, here are a variety of gift ideas to give thanks to those who are the most integral to you on your very special day.

Mad River Distillers Wedding Gift Ideas

Old Fashioned Gift Pack

Know someone who loves to have an Old Fashioned cocktail in their hand? Check out our Old Fashioned Variety Pack with ready-to-go (ready-to-drink) cocktails made from our Bourbon Whiskey, Maple Cask Rum, and Revolution Rye spirits. There’s no need to take out a mixing glass and stir, you just pour and enjoy.

Old Fashioned Kit

If that someone you know loves an Old Fashioned, but prefers to make them from scratch, our Burlington Tasting Room has all the ingredients you need to put together a great Old Fashioned kit. Just pick up a bottle of our Straight Bourbon or Revolution Rye, Angostura Bitters and a jar of Luxardo Cherries. We’ll put them in a craft paper bag for you—all you’ll need is a little tissue paper and a thank you card to complete the gift.

Tropical Tiki Gift

Does someone in your party prefer fruity beverages with a tropical twist? Who could blame them! Fruity rum drinks are delicious, and at Mad River Distillers, we are well known for our rums. At our Burlington Tasting Room, you can find each of our rum spirits, including Rum 44, Vanilla Rum, First Run Rum, Maple Cask Rum or PX Rum. We also have a variety of tiki glasses for sale, and common tropical drink mixers like Orgeat, so you can easily put together a Tropical Tiki gift set.

Spirits Gift Pack

These flask-sized bottles are a popular choice for wedding party gifts. At 200ml, they are a great way to sample a variety of our spirits. It’s also a budget-friendly way to gift spirits to a larger group. And, it’s the perfect size to stow away in luggage, a small purse or pocket (you know, should that be needed).

Bitters Gift Set

Have you ever received a gift that you wouldn’t have thought to buy yourself, but you are super excited when someone gets it for you? Bitters easily fit into this bucket (and almost any gift bag, just saying). Cocktail lovers know that one of the best ways to enhance a cocktail is by using bitters. So, if you have a cocktail lover helping out with your wedding, you can’t go wrong with a gift set, or even a single bottle. Our Burlington Tasting Room has a whole wall dedicated to bitters! Don’t worry, if you need help figuring out what to choose, our team is happy to point you in the right direction.

Barware Starter Set

If your friend or family member would love a ready-to-drink Old Fashioned because they don’t have a barware set at home, we can remedy that. At our Burlington Tasting Room, we carry all the cocktail making essentials—shakers, strainers, barspoons, ice trays & more—so you can easily build and gift a great barware starter set.

Glassware Gift

A great addition to any spirit or cocktail-themed gift would be glassware. We carry a variety of styles at our Burlington Tasting Room, such as rocks glasses, Glencairn glasses, stemless wine glasses, beer glasses and more, so you can choose a glass that would traditionally be used to serve each recipient's favorite cocktail, or whatever glass you prefer.

Gift Local

In addition to the gift ideas above, we also carry a variety of Mad River merch for sale online and at our Burlington Tasting Room. The bonus? By stocking up on your wedding party gift supplies with Mad River Distillers, your purchases help to support local business. After all that gifting, if you’re tired and need a break, grab a chair at our bar and sample some spirits or cocktails for yourself.

To find the items above (and more), visit us at 137 St. Paul Street, in Burlington, VT. 

Not Local, But Like Our Spirits?

If you're located out of state, visit our Purchase page to see where you can pick up our spirits online and in stores near you. 

Best wishes for a smooth and joyous wedding day! Cheers!


Written and edited by Brianne Lucas. Published on June 20, 2022.

By in Blog Comments Off on Customize Your Cocktails With Syrups

Customize Your Cocktails With Syrups

Taylor Sacco shares how you can customize cocktails by using simple but flavorful syrups.

One of the things that I’ve come to love most about cocktails is the ability to customize them. There are almost an endless number of tweaks and variations you can make that takes your cocktail from something familiar to something fresh. The challenge, I find, is in how you tweak your cocktail. I recently covered the topic of Rum Infusions, which is one really great way to add new flavors to your favorite rum-based cocktails. Another way you can customize your cocktails is by using syrups.

Take a classic daiquiri recipe: 2 ounces rum, 3/4 ounce lime juice and 3/4 ounce simple syrup. Easy peasy. What if we want to test out some tweaks to the recipe? Once you start adding to the basic recipe, the specs (or breakdown of ingredients) can get complicated very quickly. Suddenly, you can find yourself with an overabundance of ingredients that create a cocktail which no longer resembles the original. The key here is to enhance flavors, and not cover them. 

Syrups Make a Simple Solution

What a breakthrough it is to start making your own flavored syrups at home! So many cocktails—such as classic daiquiris, old fashioneds, gimlets, tom collins, mojitos and whiskey sours—call for simple syrup. Creating a custom syrup is a simple way to elevate your cocktail by adding just a few ingredients to your syrup while it cooks, then removing the ingredients when it’s done. Pretty cool, right?

Like most cocktail experimentation, syrups can be straightforward or complex. It really comes down to your interest in experimenting, and what flavors you’re looking to impart in your drink. Really, the raw potential of different flavor combinations and ideas should bring a smile to your face. Feel free to play around with different ideas using different herbs, teas, spices and fruits. 

As a starting point, here are two flavorful simple syrup recipes you can try from home:

THREE BERRY SYRUP
Ingredients:
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup water
-10 blueberries
-5 raspberries
-2 large strawberries

Instructions:
Combine the sugar and water in a pan, and place it over high heat, stirring occasionally until all of the sugar has dissolved. Once you have a uniform syrup, reduce to medium-low heat and add your berries. Using a muddler, mush the berries against the bottom of the pan to release all of their berry goodness. Simmer for 10 minutes. To remove all of the fruit seeds and skins, pour the syrup through a cheesecloth into a container. Store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. 

GINGER HONEY SYRUP
Ingredients:
-1/2 cup raw honey
-1/2 cup water
-1 oz of ginger, sliced or grated

Instructions:
In a pan, combine honey, ginger (cut into thin slices) and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 40-60 minutes, tasting as you go, until you’ve reached the right level of ginger flavor melded with your syrup. Strain out ginger slices and store syrup for up to three weeks. 

It’s Time To Make Cocktails

Now that you have some delicious homemade syrups, it’s time to make some delicious homemade cocktails! Here are a couple cocktail recipes you can make using your newly made syrups above. Enjoy!

Rumberry Daiquiri next to a jar of berry simple syrup and Rum 44

RUMBERRY DAIQUIRI
Ingredients:

-2 oz Rum 44
-3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
-3/4 oz Three Berry Syrup

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake for 20-30 seconds and strain, straight up, into a coup. Garnish with a slice of strawberry. 

Ginger Drop cocktail on a table next to a jar of ginger honey syrup

GINGER DROP
Ingredients:

-2 oz First Run Rum or Bourbon
-3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
-3/4 oz Honey Ginger syrup

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake for 20-30 seconds and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a twist of lemon.


Written by Taylor Sacco and edited by Brianne Lucas. Published on June 17, 2022.

By in Bourbon, Cocktails Comments Off on Bittersweet & Sacred

Bittersweet & Sacred

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Bittersweet & Sacred cocktail on a table

Bittersweet & Sacred


  • Author: Mad River Distillers
  • Yield: 1 cocktail 1x
Bittersweet & Sacred cocktail on a table

Description

A little bitter, a little sweet. The Bittersweet & Sacred cocktail combines our Straight Bourbon Whiskey, elderflower liqueur, Campari, freshly squeezed lime juice, simple syrup and a few dashes of Bennett Exorcism Bitters.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 oz Mad River Distillers Straight Bourbon
  • 3/4 oz elderflower liqueur
  • 3/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 oz Campari
  • 2-3 drops Bennett Exorcism Bitters

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice.
  2. Shake hard, then strain contents into a rocks glass over a large ice cube.
  3. Garnish with a twist of lime wrapped around a Luxardo cherry.

Featured Spirit

Keywords: Mad River Distillers Straight Bourbon, elderflower liqueur, fresh squeezed lime juice, Campari, Bennett Exorcism Bitters

By in Cooking & Baking Comments Off on Mad River Rum Popsicles

Mad River Rum Popsicles

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hand holding two rum popsicles

Mad River Rum Popsicles


  • Author: Mad River Distillers
  • Yield: 4 popsicles 1x
hand holding two rum popsicles

Description

Need a treat to beat the heat? Enjoy some cool and boozy bites with our Mad River Rum popsicles. Here we show you how to make a Pina Colada and a Strawberry-Lemonade popsicle with our Rum 44. However, feel free to experiment by combining whatever Mad River rum and fruit you prefer!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 oz of Rum 44*
  • 4 chunks of pineapple
  • 6 strawberries
  • 2 oz of pineapple juice
  • 2 oz lemon juice
  • 2 oz maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp greek yogurt
  • Popsicle mold

Instructions

  1. Get your popsicle mold ready. We’re using a Tovolo Robot Pop Mold. The recipes that follow will make at least two popsicles each.
  2. To make two Pina Colada popsicles: In a blender, combine 1 oz of Rum 44, 4 chunks of pineapple (about 1 inch in size), 2 oz of pineapple juice, 1 oz of maple syrup, and 2 tbsp of greek yogurt. Blend until all ingredients are smooth. Carefully pour the popsicle mixture into two of the molds, then place the popsicle handles into the molds.
  3. To make two Strawberry-Lemonade popsicles: In a blender, combine 1 oz of Rum 44, 6 strawberries, 2 oz of lemon juice, 1 oz of maple syrup, and 2 tbsp of greek yogurt. Blend until all ingredients are smooth. Carefully pour the popsicle mixture into two of the molds, then place the popsicle handles into the molds.
  4. Place the popsicle mold in the freezer and let it freeze completely. This should take at least 4 hours.

Notes

  • *Feel free to experiment by combining different rums with different fruits. Depending on what flavor profiles you prefer, our First Run Rum, Vanilla Rum and Maple Cask Rum would make excellent rums for combining with fruits.
  • If you prefer, you can replace maple syrup with another sweetener, such as sugar.
  • These popsicles contain alcohol and are intended for adults 21+ only.

Featured Spirit

Keywords: Rum 44, pineapple, strawberries, pineapple juice, lemon juice, maple syrup, greek yogurt, Popsicle mold

By in Cocktails, Revolution Rye Comments Off on Brooklyn

Brooklyn

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Brooklyn


  • Author: Mad River Distillers
  • Yield: 1 cocktail 1x

Description

A cousin to the popular Manhattan cocktail, this delicious Brooklyn cocktail combines our Revolution Rye with Dolin Dry Vermouth, Bigallet China China and Luxardo Maraschino.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 oz Revolution Rye
  • 1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Bigallet China China
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino
  • Luxardo cherry for garnish

Instructions

  1. Add ice to a coupe glass to chill.
  2. In a mixing glass, combine the Revolution Rye, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Bigallet China China, and Luxardo Maraschino.
  3. Add ice to the mixing glass, and stir for about 30 seconds.
  4. Remove the ice from the coupe glass. Strain the contents of the mixing glass into the chilled coupe.
  5. Add a Luxardo cherry for garnish.

Featured Spirit

Keywords: Revolution Rye, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Bigallet China China, Luxardo Maraschino, Luxardo cherry

Rutland Farmers Market

Visit Mad River Distillers at the Rutland Farmers Market and pick up our local craft spirits. We'll be there every Saturday from 9am-2pm!

Waitsfield Farmers Market

Visit Mad River Distillers at the Waitsfield Farmers Market and pick up some local craft spirits. We'll be there every Saturday from 9am-1pm!

Tasting at Table & Vine

Join Mad River Distillers on Friday, May 27th at Table & Vine, located in the BIg Y in Northampton, MA. There will be complimentary tastings from our line of spirits between 4:00-7:00 PM. Feel free to ask questions! Bottles will be available for purchase.

Tasting at Buckalew's General Store

Join Mad River Distillers on Friday, May 27th at Buckalew’s General Store in Melrose, MA. There will be complimentary tastings from our line of spirits between 4:00-6:00 PM. Feel free to ask questions! Bottles will be available for purchase.

Tasting & Charity Cocktail at Terra Boston

Join us at Terra, in Eataly Boston, each Thursday through the month of May. We’ll be there offering tastings. You can also order Terra’s Charity Cocktail, the Strega Smash, which features Mad River Distillers Bourbon (along with Strega, basil and mint). For every cocktail sold, $1 will be donated to Community Servings—a wonderful organization that delivers medically tailored meals to individuals (and their families) experiencing critical or chronic illness and nutrition insecurity.

By in Blog Comments Off on Rum 44 Infusions

Rum 44 Infusions

Taylor Sacco shares how infusions can be used to create incredible and uncomplicated cocktails.

Now that we are entertaining friends at home again, I have found myself back in my element. After years in the service industry, my wife and I have irreversibly absorbed the drive to put everything we can into ensuring our guests have an amazing time (something we do both at home and at work). This is only a problem when it becomes clear that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, and I somehow spend the evening not with my guests, but in the kitchen whipping up cocktails. If you’re doing it right, the need for another cocktail usually comes right as you’ve finished making the last one. 

The solution has quickly turned into an obsession.

How do I make absolutely baller cocktails without spending my entire night slaving over cocktails that sound good while at the liquor store, but later prove to be herculean tasks to execute? What I discovered was a way to incorporate flavors or variety into easy-to-execute drinks without adding a ton of ingredients. Typically, this means one of two things—experimenting with different cocktail syrups (keep your eyes peeled for a post that breaks this down!), and infusing flavors directly into my spirits. 

When I first delved into the world of infusions, the pessimist in me believed that making pineapple rum couldn't possibly be as simple as rum + pineapple = pineapple rum, or that there was some alchemical process in order to impart chamomile flavors to rum besides just…adding chamomile to rum. But, here we are, right at the junction of “it can’t possibly be that simple” and “yeah, that makes a lot of sense.” 
Ultimately, an infusion is just that—letting your ingredients of choice infuse (or sit) in your spirit, both literally and metaphorically, while those ingredients slowly impart unique flavor to your booze. 

A man is pouring a bottle of Rum 44 into a tall glass mason jar filled with hibiscus flowers.

For my infusions, I choose to use Mad River Distillers Rum 44. This silver rum is perfect for infusing. It’s made with 100% Demerara sugar, and for those who are counting, it’s only 97 calories per serving. This is our go-to spirit for infusions because it’s a very clean, smooth rum, so it lends itself perfectly to almost limitless infusion possibilities.

For the purposes of making three different cocktails using infused Rum 44, I thought I'd start with the finished product and work backwards. I’m a shameless lover of classic daiquiris, so a pineapple daiquiri was first on my list. Another undeniably great cocktail, that’s also a harbinger of summer sipping, is the mojito. Thinking a mojito could be streamlined, led me to make my second infusion, with lime and mint. Finally, I wanted to balance out those two citrus cocktails with something soothing and comforting using lemon—something like a boozy hug. Nothing says cozy to me like chamomile, so the infusion menu was set! 

The time it takes for an infusion to finish.

Checking the jars, taking a sip and giving it a little shake to keep the ingredients interacting with the rum, became a daily ritual. I found that the four chamomile tea bags that I added to a bottle of Rum 44 infused quite quickly, leaving me with a beautifully floral spirit in just two hours! The mint and lime infusion took significantly longer, finishing in about five days before I strained the materials and was left with a beautiful, absinthe colored rum perfect for summer shaking. Finally, the pineapple infusion seemed to only get more delicious with time. I concluded it at seven days, but a tiny nagging piece of me keeps saying that I should have gone longer. Ultimately, the pineapple daiquiri was the clear winner, possibly due to my excessive love of both pineapple and daiquiris.

Three bottles of Rum 44 on a table, each with the words Chamomile, Pineapple, and Lime & Mint,

Before we delve into recipe town, I just wanted to leave you with a few infusion basics. First, unless you’re dealing with some fairly small ingredients, you’ll need to empty your rum into another vessel. I’ve found that 800ml Ball jars work great, as they have just enough room for a 750ml bottle of rum, plus the infusion ingredients. After infusing, I funneled the strained rum back into the bottle for presentation purposes, but also because the Rum 44 bottles just say “Hey, I’m rum, let’s have a good time.”

Infusions should be kept in a cool, dark place, away from sunlight. You don’t need to refrigerate them, but keeping them on your porch in direct sunlight is a no-no. The best part about infused spirits is that they have a virtually infinite shelf life! 

In closing, infusions are a blast. You can be incredibly creative and experimental, and it gives you something to check on every day. When all is said and done…you get to drink it! In my book, that is a worthwhile reason to do just about anything. Below are some easy steps you can follow to make your own infusions from home.

How to make a Rum 44 Chamomile Infusion:
  1. In a jar, combine 1 bottle of Rum 44 with 4 chamomile tea bags. 
  2. With a lid on the jar, shake the ingredients together.
  3. Let the jar sit for 2 or more hours (depending on your desired strength of flavor). 
  4. When you’re happy with how it tastes, strain out the teabags and return the rum to its original bottle. 
How to make a Rum 44 Mint & Lime Infusion:
  1. In a jar, combine 1 bottle of Rum 44 with the zest from 4 limes, doing your best to avoid including any of the white pith, using only the green parts of the peel. Then, add 10-12 fresh mint leaves. 
  2. With a lid on the jar, shake the ingredients together.
  3. Find something to do while you wait the 5 days (I find trying to keep a clean house with two boys running around is a sufficient distraction, but you do you). 
  4. After 5 days, strain the ingredients out, admire the color, and return your Lime & Mint Rum back to its festive Rum 44 bottle. 
How to make a Rum 44 Pineapple Infusion:
  1. In a jar, combine 1 bottle of Rum 44 with 1 whole pineapple, cut into 2-3 inch cubes.
  2. With a lid on the jar, shake occasionally, then let time do its thing. Maybe contemplate the universe a little bit. 
  3. When you’re happy with the flavor, after about 7-10 days, remove the pineapple and eat it (if you want…you deserve it!). Pour the rum through a cheesecloth to remove all the tiny pineapple bits, and you’ve got your sweet-self some delicious pineapple rum.

Done infusing? Why not celebrate with a drink?

Now that you have some fresh infusions made, go ahead and reward your hard work with an uncomplicated but totally incredible tasting cocktail. Below are some closing recipes you can try from home using each of the infusions above. Enjoy!

Bottle of Rum 44 infused with Chamomile

SWEET LEAF
Ingredients:
-2 oz Chamomile Rum 44
-.75 oz lemon juice
-.5 oz honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
-1 dash Fee Bros. Peach Bitters

Directions: 
Combine all three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake, and serve up in a collins or highball glass with a lemon zest.

BRING THE MO-HEAT-YO
Ingredients:
-2 oz Lime & Mint infused Rum 44
-1 oz fresh lime juice
-.75 oz simple syrup

Directions:
Combine all three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain in a chilled coupe. Top with club soda. Garnish with a lime wheel.

ELECTRIC MESSIAH
Ingredients:

-2 oz Pineapple Rum 44
-.75 oz fresh lime juice
-.75 oz simple syrup

Directions: 
Combine all three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake well, then strain and serve up in a coupe with a lime wheel garnish.


Written by Taylor Sacco. Edited by Brianne Lucas. Published on May 24, 2022.

By in Blog Comments Off on The History of Distilling in Vermont

The History of Distilling in Vermont

The history of distilling in Vermont is a snapshot in moments of time.

The role of the distilling industry has changed over time in Vermont, but also nationally. It has moved from an important food preservation method and seasonal industry to a year round artisan craft industry. The transformation of the industry was far from seamless. The craft movement that we appreciate today rekindled only three decades ago in Vermont. The history of alcohol and distillation in Vermont is rather unique. 

Distillation in the year 1800 had a completely different cultural role than the contemporary distilleries in Vermont today. To look at distilling over 200 years ago, we need to look at it through a different historical lens: food preservation and calories. Simply put, the fermentation and distillation of grains, fruits, and sugars created a shelf stable source of calories as opposed to the raw materials themselves. 

Another aspect was that fermented and distilled beverages were safe to consume on a microbial level. It was not until Louis Pastuer discovered bacteria and microbiology theory in the 1860’s on food and water contamination, we understood what we consumed. Drinking the water in many places could lead to severe illness and death. Until that discovery, it was not completely understood why  beer, cider, wine, spirits, coffee, and tea were fine to consume. Certain water sources were fine while others were dangerous, and there was no way to be certain of safety.

inside the barn at Mad River Distiller

Vermont had the land and climate where apples thrived. A strong agricultural industry took hold. This allowed the flourishing that existed between brewers and distillers very early on. In the 1820 Vermont agricultural census, over 260 operational distilleries were noted. In fact, there were more distilleries than towns in the state. Peacham, a small town in southern Caledonia County, had 7 operating stills at the turn of the 19th century.

Throughout the newspapers of the early 19th century in Vermont, there were numerous advertisements from distilleries trying to procure raw ingredients for the operation. These advertisements would often start appearing in the late fall and run through the winter. The main materials there were sought by Vermont distilleries were barley, wheat, oats, and cider. Some operations worked on the bartering system, while others paid hard currency. The bartering often worked with a farmer or producer bringing cider or grains in exchange for a portion of the spirits produced. 

Historically, distilleries in Vermont were not year-round operations. They were based on an agricultural product (attention was needed to other endeavors throughout the year). The distillation industry was only a short seasonal product. Often, the distilleries ran as long as they could source raw materials, but in 19th century Vermont, the season typically ran from mid fall through early winter.

Most distilleries were dynamic operations, often part of a group of businesses operating together. Many of the distilleries also operated as breweries, mills, malt houses, and potash producers. In the present, distilleries are now year-round operations. This is due to the availability of raw materials and the social demand that alcohol now holds in modern society.

USA stamp image showing Prohibition Enforced

Prohibition took hold of Vermont in 1853, long before Federal prohibition in 1918. This was a response to the rapidly growing temperance movement, which drew attention to the problems of excessive alcohol consumption. When the Second Great Awakening religious movement arose, a strong and opposite force started to emerge.

The temperance movement.

The temperance movement emerged in Vermont in the 1820’s, as a response to what was documented as rampant excessive consumption. In 30 years’ time, the Temperance movement became powerful. It persuaded the Legislatures in Montpelier to enact a few different versions of Prohibition, until full state Prohibition began in 1853. This remained “on the books” until state repeal in 1902. Most areas of Vermont were dry though the repeal of Federal Prohibition.

Many breweries and distilleries in New England folded during the period of Federal Prohibition from 1920 thru 1933. The original bill that the United States Legislature proposed was in December of 1917, and was not ratified by enough states until 1919. This gave some brewers and distillers the time and opportunity to pivot operations. However, the pressure of prohibition’s looming cloud, paired with the 1918 Influenza pandemic, forced the hand of most producers. 

In some very few cases, distillers and brewers were able to secure government contracts. This allowed them to produce beer and spirits for medicinal or military purposes. Some pivoted to producing malt syrup, soft drinks, or whatever they could to survive. Most, however, did not survive.

In Vermont’s case, because state prohibition began in 1853, there were no distilleries in operation during Federal Prohibition. This can be seen from information in the Vermont Manufacturing census records from the 19th century. There was one brewery in Burlington grandfathered in, but unable to sell their products in the state due to the laws in place. All of the beer was shipped across Lake Champlain. There were no official distilleries in operation, but illicit stills and distilling operations were rampant across the state. After federal prohibition was repealed, a distillery first emerged in Burlington—The Green Mountain Distillery Company. The distiller was operated by Frank H. Mahoney, who previously handled operations for New England Distiller Inc. (A. Manning Co.).

The Green Mountain Distillery Company produced maple liquor that was derived from maple syrup. The distillery also produced rum. Operations were very short lived, however, operating for just a handful of years. The raw material for the product was costly, and other costs were rapidly rising as the U.S. moved from the Great Depression to World War II. The distillery was sold in 1942 and switched operations to producing alcohol for the Federal government, under contract. While lucrative, the distillery ultimately shuttered (Carlisle, Lillian Baker). The building is still visible, located at 101 College Street in Burlington (S, n.d.).

The idea of producing spirits from maple as well as using maple in liquors was rekindled once again in 1986 by Steve Isreal and Brian Tyrol in Waterbury, Vermont, with the Vermont Distillers Company. Israel was also a founder of Catamount Brewing Company in White River Junction, the first brewery in Vermont in a century. The distillery started producing Mad River Vodka, Veranda Gin, and Tamarack Liquor, a blend of maple and spices blended in Kentucky bourbon in 1989 (Carlata, Marialisa). The distillery shuttered in the mid 1990’s.

It was not until late 1999 that Vermont had a distillery again. Duncan Holoday launched the second legal distillery in over half a century (and the third one in almost a century and a half) on his property in Barnet, Vermont. The Vermont Spirits Distilling Company started off producing vodka from a local source, maple, later adding other products. One product was vodka, produced from milk. The company moved operations to Quechee in 2011. A pioneer of the modern Vermont craft distilling movement, Holoday received the American Distilling Institute’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. He also started the Vermont modern craft spirits movement.

The resurgence of Vermont’s distilling industry has a focus on local agriculture. 

distilling at Mad River Distillers

Distillers have made the use of local or regional ingredients a focal point in producing their spirits. This offers customers a unique experience in the glass. It also gives far more character to the spirits produced—farm-to-glass, if you will. 

There’s another factor here. Most distillers learned the craft of distilling hands-on, within the Green Mountain state. This, in turn, translates to artistic interpretations and unique products. It also allows distilleries to not be constrained, with the freedom to experiment. At the moment, the distilling industry in Vermont consists of almost 20 distilleries. It is a far cry from the number of distilleries operating at the beginning of the 19th century. 

Between the craft of distilling and the use of local ingredients, the distilling industry in Vermont has laid a very strong foundation for future growth. The amount of awards the industry has received helps to further their cause. I believe Vermont distillers will continue to flourish for many years to come.

To learn more about Vermont’s Prohibition history, read Adam Krakowski’s new book, Vermont Prohibition: Teetotalers, Bootleggers & Corruption, which you can find at our Burlington Tasting Room, your local independent bookstore, or The History Press online.


Written by Author Adam Krakowski and edited by Brianne Lucas and Mimi Buttenheim. Published on May 23, 2022.

REFERENCES:
H.A. Manning Co. Manning's Burlington, Winooski, and Essex Junction Directory of 1938. (Springfield, MA, 1938). 88. Microfiche

Carlisle, Lillian Baker. "Green Mountain Distillery: The Saga of a Vermont Industry that almost made it", Chittenden County Historical Society Bulletin (Burlington, VT: Summer 2003), 6

S, E. (n.d.). Local and global manufacturers in downtown Burlington by Egbert Stolk. Local and Global Manufacturers in Downtown Burlington. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.uvm.edu/%7Ehp206/2013/pages/stolk/index.html

Carlata, Marialisa. “Maverick Distillers in Vermont Produce Maple Syrup With a Kick”, The New York Times. Feb. 15, 1989. Section C, Page 1

Krakowski, A. (2016). Vermont Prohibition: Teetotalers, Bootleggers & Corruption (American Palate). The History Press.

Tasting at One Stop Market & Liquors

Join Mad River Distillers on Saturday, May 21st at One Stop Market & Liquors in Beverly, MA. There will be complimentary tastings from our line of spirits between 5:00-7:00 PM. Feel free to ask questions! Bottles will be available for purchase.

Tasting at Provisions

Join Mad River Distillers on Saturday, May 21st at Provisions in Northampton, MA. There will be complimentary tastings from our line of spirits between 2:00-5:00 PM. Feel free to ask questions! Bottles will be available for purchase.

Rutland Farmers Market

Visit our table at the Rutland Farmers Market (at Depot Park) and pick up some of our local craft spirits. We'll be there every Saturday from 9am-2pm!

Waitsfield Farmers Market

Visit Mad River Distillers at the Waitsfield Farmers Market and pick up some local craft spirits. We'll be there every Saturday from 9am-1pm!

Tasting at Ryan and Casey Liquors

Join Mad River Distillers on Friday, May 20th at Ryan & Casey Liquors in Greenfield, MA. There will be complimentary tastings from our line of spirits between 4:30-6:30 PM. Feel free to ask questions! Bottles will be available for purchase.

 

Tasting & Charity Cocktail at Terra Boston

Join us at Terra, in Eataly Boston, each Thursday through the month of May. We’ll be there offering tastings. You can also order Terra’s Charity Cocktail, the Strega Smash, which features Mad River Distillers Bourbon (along with Strega, basil and mint). For every cocktail sold, $1 will be donated to Community Servings—a wonderful organization that delivers medically tailored meals to individuals (and their families) experiencing critical or chronic illness and nutrition insecurity.