- courtesy of rogers farmstead
- Oats at Rogers Farmstead
In Barre, a new distillery is coming to town. High in the quarried hills of Websterville, Old Route Two Spirits is slowly taking form in the same industrial park that's home to Vermont Creamery and the Vermont Foodbank.
Co-owners Adam Overbay, Jennifer West and Ryan Dumperth say Old Route Two's focus will be on rum, gin and whiskey. The company will also produce micro-batches of absinthe and other liqueurs, which will showcase the diversity of Vermont's native crops and wild flora.
"A big part of what we want to do is work with local agriculture," West says. "So, when strawberries come in, we can offer a small run of strawberry liqueur."
The locavore model will hold for the company's larger releases, too — excepting the rum, which will incorporate blackstrap molasses and turbinado sugar from a family-run farm in Louisiana.
"We're looking toward developing a New England-style whiskey using grains that grow well here," says Overbay, a former army sergeant who did two tours in Iraq. After completing college under the G.I. Bill, Overbay learned the finer points of spirits production at Massachusetts' Turkey Shore and Ryan & Wood Distilleries, then moved to Vermont and spent time at Dunc's Mill in St. Johnsbury.
Grain harvests can be unpredictable in Vermont's cool, wet climate. To accommodate year-to-year fluctuations in availability, the distillers plan to build considerable variation into their products, just as wineries distinguish among vintages.
Rather than follow a set recipe for each spirit, Overbay says, he will adjust mash bills to showcase the season's harvest. "So, if the oats do really well one year, that'll be reflected in the mash bill. You'll be able to taste what 2016 or 2017 tasted like."
Most of the spirits will spend time in barrels hand-built by a local cooper using wood harvested from northeastern forests.
Old Route Two's production will begin later this winter once a few permits go through. If all goes well, the first spirits should be available at Vermont state liquor stores in the spring, with an on-site tasting room soon to follow.