Grand Opening of Vermont’s New Caledonia Spirits Raises the Bar on Distillery Sustainability
The new state of the art Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Distillery recently celebrated the grand opening of its Montpelier, Vermont location. Founded in 2009, the distillery has been making its own unique blend of Vermont spirits for the last decade using locally sourced ingredients like raw honey and Vermont Maple syrup.
Located just 10 minutes off of Interstate 89 along the banks of the Winooski River the distillery is within walking distance of the state’s capital in downtown Montpelier. The new distillery experience is sure to attract state legislators, the local community and plenty of tourists as they travel the interstate to visit the many ski mountains in the area.
The Journey from a 15 Gallon Still to a 550 Gallon Pot Still & 3 Columns
Construction on the $9+ million distillery started in August of 2018 and wrapped up with the recent grand opening. The 27,000 square foot facility will allow Caledonia Spirits to expand its distilling capacity 10 times to help meet the demand for its unique blend of botanical based spirits. The distillery has come a long way from operating on its original 15 gallon direct fired pot still days.
In a conversation with Ryan Christiansen President and Owner of Caledonia Spirits he said, “We are all done with direct fire. I don’t ever want to do that again. We ran almost 450 distillation runs in 2012 on a 15 gallon direct fire still. When we shut that down I vowed to never turn it back on.” That 15 gallon system was replaced by a custom built 300 gallon steam fired still. The new distillery will be running a brand new copper and stainless steel 550 gallon pot Carl Artisan Still, a 5 plate column and two 20 plate columns. Christiansen says they’ve named the pot still Phyllis. It’s a distiller thing; you spend so much time day and night with your still you have to name it!
A Craft Distillery Focused on Sustainability
“Our new home in Montpelier is a tremendous platform to share our passion for distillation, agriculture and cocktail culture,” said Christiansen. “It gives us an opportunity to create a gathering place for the wonderful Vermont community that we so firmly believe in.”
Caledonia Spirits not only wants to take care of their customers by creating great spirits but they want to take care of the earth that surrounds their distillery. The energy, water and waste systems involved in this distillery each go above and beyond a standard distillery. The most obvious thing is an 83.7kWdc rooftop solar array that covers nearly the entire southern facing roof of the distillery.
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Christiansen says that the solar system was designed to provide enough energy to run day to day operations of the entire retail, bar, and event space of the distillery and a large portion of the distillery production operations. Distillation requires a lot of energy as it goes through many cycles of heating and cooling of grains and spirits. You’ll also find several electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in the visitor center parking lot.
“Because Caledonia Spirits oversees each step of distillation, we were in a unique position to set the standard for how a distillery can be built in the Northeast U.S.,” said Christiansen. Distillery operations require the use of a lot of water for heating and cooling. The state-of-the-art building was designed for spill containment, heat reclamation and with a goal to reduce water consumption by as much as 85%.
“We’ve got spent grains, waste stillage from honey and grain distillation and domestic water,” said Christiansen. “Our whole floor system in the distillery is built to separate all of our waste streams. Our domestic water goes to a treatment tank where we make PH adjustments and then send it to the city for treatment. Anything from distillation operations that has a high particulate matter goes through a separate waste stream and is trucked to a waste tank and then trucked several miles away to a bio-digester. Long-term Montpelier is building a bio-digester at their waste water plant. We’ll still have to truck it but it will only be one mile down the road.”
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Caledonia Spirits makes Barr Hill Gin, Tom Cat Gin and Barr Hill Vodka that uniquely feature raw northern honey as a star ingredient. Part of the distilleries original mission has always been to build strong relationships with regional farmers and beekeepers, creating quality jobs in the area, and raising awareness of the importance of bees and other pollinators and the role they play in our environment.
“Our commitment to crafting high-quality spirits for our customers and partners is what drives us, and this new distillery will present us with opportunities that would have been hard to imagine several years ago,” Christiansen said. “We look forward to taking advantage of this amazing opportunity to serve more customers, work with additional farmers, and create new and innovative spirits in a sustainable way. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Caledonia Spirits and Barr Hill.”
The new, multi-million dollar distillery ensures that Caledonia Spirits will keep all of its production in-house, leaving each spirit in the skillful hands of its distillers. The extra space and equipment in the new facility will allow Caledonia Spirits to produce more of its staple offerings, in addition to new spirits. Their original location in Hardwick, Vermont will remain open a customer facing tasting room and retail center.
Weimann Lamphere Architects, of Colchester designed the facility with support from Dalkita Architecture and Construction of Littleton, Colorado.
Caledonia Spirits are available in 32 U.S. states, along with Puerto Rico, Canada (Quebec), Denmark, Hong Kong, and Japan. Now, with enhanced production capabilities and increased capacity, Caledonia Spirits will be able to introduce Barr Hill Gin, Tom Cat Gin, and Barr Hill Vodka to even more cocktail-loving customers.
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Tours of the distillery, as well as free tastings featuring limited-release spirits, will be available to visitors.