- Left to right: Brendan Hughes, Duncan Holaday, Dan Hughes
Northeast Kingdom distiller Dunc's Mill doesn't belong to Dunc (Duncan Holaday) anymore, but bottles of rum will continue to bear his name along with that of the Dunc's Mill's new manufacturer, St. Johnsbury Distillery. The brand's ownership is staying local, thanks to a father-son partnership.
When Brendan Hughes finished his entrepreneurship degree at the University of Notre Dame and returned to his hometown of St. J., he and his father, Dan Hughes, decided they wanted to go into business together. "He'd been brewing beer, but the specialty beer industry is kinda saturated," Dan recalled.
The pair decided they'd try their hand at the hard stuff instead. With visions of creating a local gin, they started reaching out to area distillers.
One of the people the Hugheses contacted was Holaday of Dunc's Mill, which had its headquarters in St. Johnsbury and its distillery in nearby Barnet. "One thing led to another," Dan said, "and we came to terms on buying Dunc's Mill."
For the first year, the St. Johnsbury Distillery will continue making Dunc's Mill rum at Holaday's home, with the booze expert acting as a consultant. Thereafter, the Hugheses plan to move the distillery to St. Johnsbury proper and to begin adding new products, including their as-yet-untried gin.
"We can build on the four products he's already established," Dan said. "[Holaday] is so knowledgeable ... we wouldn't be able to do it without him. We want to preserve his legacy."
Dan, who will run the distillery's sales arm, is a veteran of the biz. He owns a specialty and natural foods broker called Celtic Marketing Food Brokers, also based in St. J., which represents Texmati Rice, Bob's Red Mill flours and Cholula Hot Sauce. Brendan is the company's president, and Brian Garvey, Dan's son-in-law, is also a partner.
For now, the team is focused on learning the trade, building their brand on Facebook and Instagram, and trying to figure out what's going to be in their signature cocktail, the "Slam Dunc." "We have a name for it, but we don't have a recipe yet," said Dan.