Cabot's Hooker Mountain Farm Adds Distillery | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Cabot's Hooker Mountain Farm Adds Distillery

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COURTESY OF HOOKER MOUNTAIN FARM
  • courtesy of hooker mountain farm

First came pigs, then grain farming. And last weekend, Cabot's Hooker Mountain Farm added liquor production and sales to its growing list of enterprises, which also include producing beef, poultry, vegetables and artisan sodas.

Many Vermont distillers use local grains in their mash bills; the forthcoming Old Route Two Spirits in Barre, for instance, will make whiskies, gins and liqueurs from 100 percent Vermont-grown products. But Kempton and Carrie Randolph of Hooker Mountain believe their spirits, which they craft entirely with ingredients grown on-farm, represent a first for Vermont. "We can't find any other distillery that's actually growing their own input," Carrie says. "We're doing something that others aren't doing."

The project has agrarian roots. Six years ago, the couple — whose backgrounds include training in biology, historic architecture and education — decided to raise as much food as they could on their property.

They started with piglets. Buying organic grain was pricey and clashed with the farm's DIY mission, so the Randolphs cleared land — the pigs helping with tillage and fertility — and planted grain. Rather than simply feeding that raw grain to the pigs, however, as most farmers would, they saw in distillation an opportunity for their crop to do double duty.

Like human bodies, pigs' systems respond better to cooked and fermented foods than to a raw diet. By distilling the grain, the farmers could improve its nutrient bio-availability to the pigs. They could also sell the alcohol. Though it would take a few years, setting up a farm distillery seemed like a win-win.

When liquor comes off the Randolphs' still, it's just shy of 100 percent alcohol. To cut their mixed-grain Sap whiskey to a saleable 90 proof (that's 45 percent alcohol), they add maple sap from the farm's sugaring operation. After that, the liquor ages on maple wood, which adds a subtle vanilla flavor.

This summer, the farm grew a "greenhouse full of crazy hot peppers," Carrie says. Now those habaneros and ghost peppers bring the heat to the farm's Wood Heat potato whiskey, which also picks up smoke from charred ash wood.

The new spirits can be sampled at Montpelier's year-round Capital City Farmers Market or at the farm's stillhouse tasting room, which is now open Friday and Saturday afternoons, noon to 5 p.m., at 1193 Lovely Road. Visitors are also welcome to strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis and take advantage of the farm's trail network, the Randolphs say.


The original print version of this article was headlined "Pig Whiskey"

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