Vermont has some pretty great finds but, what truly makes the state special is the people.
For example, take craft distiller, Vermont Spirits, the original distillery in Vermont. I don’t believe I’ve been to a small business that has as much passion for their products as they do for the state they produce them in.
For crying out loud, they’re making vodka from maple syrup! If that’s not representing the state of Vermont, I don’t know what is. 😉
[Originally posted October 2021, Last Updated February 2023]
What I also find appealing is that, not only do they bottle their products by hand, making everything in small batches with locally sourced ingredients, but, they’ve also built much of the equipment they distill their products with! I couldn’t believe this.
Because I am so impressed with their work, today, I’m putting the spotlight on this local treasure, who just this Fall, I was able to collaborate with for a fun campaign to get the word out about their small operation in the Woodstock-Quechee area of Vermont.
Whether you’re a cocktail connoisseur, not much of a drinker, or looking for a gift to give, I think you’re going to love what this distillery has in store!
In this blog, I’ll be diving into my experience taking a tour at Vermont Spirits, share their small-town roots and how they include that maple in their vodka, bourbon, and gin. I’ll even share some recipes with you later too. By the end of this blog, you’re going to want to take a trip and see what Vermont is all about!
In this blog, I’ll share…
- A Taste of the State
- Vermont Pride
- My Collaboration with Vermont Spirits
- Who Runs Vermont Spirits
- Vermont Spirits Story, It All Started with a Maple Tree
- The Meeting House
- Spotlighting Vermont Spirits Top Products
- Tour of Vermont Spirits Distillery
- Where You Can Find Vermont Spirits Products
- The Perfect Fall Day for a Picnic
- Cocktail Recipes
A Taste of Vermont
With the beautiful natural scenery all around and endless adventurous activities…Vermont has definitely got it goin’ on. It’s not hard to see why over 13 million people flock to the state every year.
But, my favorite part of Vermont culture is all the fresh, tasty delights that come from local farms like cheese, maple syrup, and fresh produce.
One of my favorite things to do when visiting is going to different farm-to-table restaurants and trying out their different charcuterie and cheese boards! I love knowing their selection came from farmers.
It’s that kind of small business, community spirit that originally drew me to Vermont and keeps me coming back! Stay tuned for more blogs about my Vermont adventures. It’s truly a beautiful state, so much to explore!
So, what do you get when you mix maple syrup, dairy, and fresh produce? Vermont Spirits, a local Vermont distillery that caught my eye on a trip last Spring.
These ingredients, my friends, are what’s sourced from all around the state to craft the most magnificent (and smoothest) spirits I’ve tasted.
Maple syrup used in:
- No. 14 Bourbon
- Coppers Sugarwood Gin
- Vermont Gold Vodka
Handpicked juniper berries used in:
- Coppers Gins (American Style, Coppers Barrel-Aged, and Sugarwood)
One of the reasons why Vermont Spirits’ gins are so good is because of the unique combination of botanicals mixed with juniper, an ingredient all gins must have to be considered a “gin”.
Coppers American and Barrel-Aged Gins have 7 different botanicals: handpicked Juniper, Coriander, Cardamon, Rose Petals, Licorice Root, Lemon Peel, and Orange Peel.
Coppers Sugarwood Gin has 3 different botanicals: handpicked Juniper, Orange Peel, and Green Tea.
Every now and then, they’ll throw in a new creation like their 1791 Oak Barrel Cocktail which has infusions of honey and cranberry, very festive, even though you can find it year round. (Note to self: Grab a bottle for the holidays!)
Going on a road trip to New England?
The distillery’s artisanal spirits have won numerous awards and it’s no wonder. They really care about what they do and who they give their business to, taking pride in supporting their communities.
As Vermont Spirits said, “Our love of Vermont is complete and shows through in everything we do. This is truly an enchanted land with incredible people creating amazing products. Everything we craft relies on Vermont to provide the special touch, and we, in turn, take our responsibilities as stewards to heart.”
In fact, Vermont Spirits’ love runs so deep for the Green Mountain state, that they’ve made it their goal to become a carbon-negative operation in the future and work toward being sustainable and environmentally friendly. All while keeping things “clean, neat, and tidy for the customer too”.
While they achieve that goal, they’ll keep their focus on making delicious spirits while continuing their strong partnerships with local farmers around Vermont.
This post was sponsored by Vermont Spirits. As always, all opinions are my own.
My Collaboration with Vermont Spirits
One Spring, I took a trip out to Vermont and was looking at new, fun things to do in the Woodstock-Quechee area. That’s when the moose on Vermont Spirits property caught my eye. I went straight for it. Curious about what was inside, I went in.
I was surprised to find a cozy setup with a bunch of beautifully bottled spirits in different colors and arrangements. I’m a visual person, you see. So, that is what did it for me. Of course, I had to try what I was looking at.
Scott, the gentleman up front was nice enough to give me the history of different products I sampled and even shocked me when he told me that they were made with maple syrup…
Never have I tasted a bourbon or vodka that went down so smooth. I ended up going home with a bottle of their signature Vermont Gold Vodka and No. 14 Bourbon, which I’m told, “everyone comes for”.
Ever since then, I’ve been a Vermont Spirits fan.
I literally left with such a good taste in my mouth the first time I visited that I couldn’t resist reaching out to them over the Summer to do a fun Fall collaboration together.
Even though this is technically a sponsored post, I don’t work with brands unless I’ve tried them and absolutely believe in the products they’re selling.
For this collaboration, Vermont Spirits brought me out to their distillery where I got to take a personal tour, meet the people behind the scenes and learn how they make it all happen! They even sent me home with a few bottles to make cocktails with. (stay tuned till the end for recipes!)
The Stars of the Show
The great thing about stopping by Vermont Spirits’ distillery and store –they call it their “Meeting House”– is that they’re not only very helpful and informative with decades of combined experience but, they’re also very friendly.
So, who runs Vermont Spirits?
You’d think it’d be easy but as I discovered on my recent trip to their distillery, it’s not so…
As I learned, they have over 40 different investors, many of whom are family or friends.
There’s Master Distiller Harry Gorman and CEO Randy Carlson who I learned so much from.
Then, his daughter Avary, who you could easily be convinced wasn’t based on her professionalism, and Scott, the man behind the bar pouring the drinks… and other team members who I’m sure I haven’t even met.
I had the chance to speak to both Harry and Randy one on one which immediately gave me a sense of how different their roles were in the parts they played in the Vermont Spirits show.
I see Randy as this energetic storyteller who has vision and uses it to lead his team. Whereas Harry comes off as a more quiet, hands-on, matter-of-fact type of guy with a real passion for what he does. He’s a true renaissance craftsman and creates perfection in my opinion.
It made for a very interesting dynamic as they are so different and yet, there was no shortage of passion from either of them.
What info I didn’t learn from Harry, I got from Randy, who was telling me stories that he knew Harry was too modest to tell me.
I really enjoyed all the fun, historical facts they incorporate throughout their brand with the “easter eggs” hidden in their products’ names and all throughout the distillery’s facility.
But, where did it all begin?
Vermont Spirits Story: It All Started with a Maple Tree
Before moving to their current location in the Woodstock-Quechee area in 2011, the distillery was right next to a maple farm which the original founder used to harvest maple syrup from as well as from his own property.
Vermont Gold came from the question, “What’s next for maple syrup?”
Let’s go back to 1999 when Vermont Spirits started in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont in a town called Barnet (in St. Johnsbury), about an hour from their current location in White River Junction.
Before Vermont Spirits became what it is today, it was a sugar farm basically.
As Harry Gorman tells me, “the founder (of Vermont Spirits) had a property with a sugarbush along with maple trees and wanted to produce something other than maple syrup so he produced the Vermont Gold Vodka and he thought it was good so he kept making it!”
Sometimes there are even variations in the taste of their spirits. I watched as Randy and Harry playfully debated whether this year’s batch was better than last year’s.
Randy seemed to think this year’s batch was better.
However, Harry said, “Maple is a natural product so you’re going to get some variation in small batches. But, our focus is to make sure that that variation doesn’t mean that one is bad and one is good.”
The Meeting House
When you open the door of Vermont Spirits, you’re in “The Meeting House” which is basically their storefront. There, you’ll be able to sample the distillery’s top products and get a rundown of the story behind each.
I loved being able to sample 4 of their products right there at the bar, where they’ll give you a little info on what you’re sipping. Their mini-history lessons are a bonus and left me wanting more of what Vermont has to offer!
When you look all around “The Meeting House”, you’ll see wood all around that Harry Gorman took himself from a neighbor’s deteriorating farmhouse over a decade ago which, at his wife’s convincing, he decided to snatch up just recently! So technically, the wood is from his barn. 😉
Let’s dive into a few of their top products and the ones I got to take home with me!
Spotlighting Vermont Spirits Top Products
Known as the oldest Vermont distillery, Vermont Spirits has worked hard to master the top-shelf products you see today. Not the kind you’d find at a watering hole so much but, the kind you’d find at a classy establishment in the city.
The following 3 spirits are basically Vermont Spirits in a nutshell.
As someone who doesn’t drink a whole lot of alcohol, I was blown away.
Usually, when I drink a cocktail, the alcohol burn is so strong that it puts me off from having more than a few sips. Rarely do I end up finishing my drink. I just end up giving it to the person I’m with.
However, the finish I experienced with Vermont Spirits Vermont Gold Vodka and No. 14 Bourbon was so smooth that I had to reconsider whether I didn’t like drinking or whether I had yet to find the right spirits up until now. You have to be careful, they’re dangerously good!
Vermont Gold Vodka
This is Vermont Spirit’s flagship product.
The original founder wanted to use his property in St. Johnsbury to make something other than maple syrup and so, he decided to make vodka with it.
Upon taking a tour, I was completely shocked to learn that the Vermont Gold Vodka is made from 100% pure maple syrup. I suppose any carb can be turned into vodka but you typically think of potato, not maple syrup. It’s so very Vermont! I love it!
No. 14 Bourbon
Appropriately named since Vermont is the U.S.’s 14th state, this bourbon is the distillery’s most well-known, popular product.
People I know who don’t even like bourbon liked this bourbon.
This bourbon is 75% corn, 21% rye, and a little bit of barley. Most importantly, they finish it off with a little bit of local, Vermont maple syrup, which they use not for taste, but for a smooth finish.
In fact, it’s the smoothest finish I’ve ever experienced in a bourbon. Scott tells me, “it’s bottled in 90 proof and it’s very dangerous since it goes down much smoother than 90 proof”. He’s not wrong. It’s dangerously good.
Coppers Barrel-Aged Gin
This gin is one of three under the brand Coppers Gin, whose name has a special history of its own. When Vermont was an independent republic, they had their own currency of copper coins, which you’ll see in the Coppers Gin labels.
Scott is a single malt scotch drinker, not a bourbon or gin drinker.
So, when he told me that he thought Coppers Barrel-Aged Gin was his favorite product. I had to give it a try! Glad that I did!
It is truly the most delicious gin I’ve had. Each flavor stands on its own without being “muddy”, it’s amazing.
The flavor from this gin comes from 7 different botanicals and the 2 different kinds of barrels that it’s aged in -barrel aging a gin is already different, but taking it one step further the Coppers Barrel-Aged Gin is aged a second time in Vermont Spirits used bourbon barrels. Sometimes, for 6 years in some cases! “It’s a gin that basically tastes a lot like whiskey.”
You can sip it just as it is or use it in a lot of whiskey cocktails. It’s good in an Old Fashioned or with ginger beer in a Dark & Stormy.
The juniper berry flavor is accentuated by the oak. You also get the peppery flavor.
Harry showed me the juniper berries they use in their gins that they had handpicked one weekend in the Northeastern region of Vermont, right by Vermont Spirits original location. But of course, they get a majority of their juniper from farms.
He said he developed the Coppers gins by starting off with a level of the juniper he liked and everyone agreed on. Then, he started adding a bit of coriander and cardamon. It was trial and error till they got it right.
Tour of Vermont Spirits Distillery
It’s crazy to think that Vermont’s maple syrup is to thank for the smooth finish in Vermont Spirits products.
Master distiller Harry Gorman, gave me a crash course on how to make some of Vermont’s top products.
It was fun to listen to him describe the whole scientific breakdown of how you turn maple syrup into vodka and literally walk me through it all.
Their Vermont Gold Vodka takes 1,100 gallons of wort which is sugar and water that’s unfermented.
He explained that he puts jugs of maple syrup in a large tank with water and nutrients for the yeast which ferments the maple syrup. It starts off at 67% and he gets it down to 20ish%. It’s pumped upstairs to the tanks.
I was trying to jog Harry’s memory for a funny story to share with you. He had recalled a time when someone had bumped a valve that was at the bottom of the still. He came in the next morning and everything they processed had went down the drain.
Where You Can Find Vermont Spirits Products
As CEO Randy Carlson was telling me, they’re working on expanding nationwide. Currently, you can find their products at their location, at bars, restaurants, and liquor stores around Vermont and in various states.
While wine and beer are able to be shipped to residences, harder spirits like the kinds distilled and barreled at Vermont Spirits cannot be shipped to residential addresses due to state and federal liquor laws.
If you have their spirits and love them, request them at your local liquor store. It’s the only way for them to start selling to you in your state!
The Perfect Fall Day for a Picnic
I thought it’d be really cute to have a Fall charcuterie picnic and planned a cozy set up outside for a fun photoshoot while I made cocktails from the recipes. It turned out to be soooo freezing outside! Luckily, these recipes are so easy that it didn’t take long! I just went inside to drink them.
Cocktail Recipes Prepared with Vermont Spirits
And now the moment you’ve been waiting for! Here are some fun recipes that I tried using Vermont Gold Vodka, No. 14 Bourbon, and Coppers Barrel-Aged Gin.
- 2 oz. Vermont Gold Vodka or Coppers Barrel-Aged Gin
- 1 whisper sweet vermouth
- Lime twist garnish
- 4-8 cubes ice
Place ice and Vermont Gold Vodka or Coppers Barrel-Aged Gin and vermouth in a shaker, shake vigorously until ice is fractured. Strain into a martini glass, garnish.
- 1 bar spoon (1/2 oz.) Vermont simple syrup (equal parts Vermont Maple Syrup, water)
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 oz. No. 14 Bourbon or Coppers Barrel-Aged Gin
- Sugar cube
- Orange twist
Muddle the sugar cube and bitters with one bar spoon of water at the bottom of a chilled rocks glass. (If using simple syrup, combine bitters and one bar spoon of syrup.)
Add bourbon. Stir. Add one large ice cube, or three or four smaller cubes. Stir until chilled and properly diluted, about 30 seconds. Slip orange twist on the side of the cube.
I hope you enjoyed my blog about Vermont’s oldest craft distillery, Vermont Spirits! Hopefully, it inspires you to take a trip of your own!
I’d love to hear what you thought of this blog! What was your favorite part? The history, the distillery process, the recipes?
Would you make one of the cocktail recipes or head out to the distillery for a tour and samples? Leave a comment below!
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