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The Chemistry of Taste

Side Dishes: Smugglers' Notch Distillery sets up shop



During Prohibition, smugglers rediscovered a mountain route that allowed them to transport booze from Canada to dry Vermont — over the “notch.” Thanks to state bill H.772, enacted in May, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery can sell and offer samples of its vodka without resorting to bootlegging.

Being Vermont’s first private outlet to offer liquor tastings isn’t the only unique thing about the vodka maker. It’s also got a scientific pedigree.

Though chemist Jeremy Turner Elliott didn’t open his store on Main Street in Jeffersonville until this past October, he started working on his vodka five years ago, when his New York City-based employer began outsourcing its research and development.

Elliott admits that he wasn’t passionate about vodka back then, but he thought developing one would be a great use of his skill set while he looked for work. “I knew that, with my chemistry background and understanding about proper process control, I could make a wonderful vodka,” says the 2000 University of Vermont grad. In the meantime, Elliott landed a position at Mylan Technologies in St. Albans — and fell in love with fermentation.

Elliott’s vodka is composed of sweet corn and winter wheat from Idaho, which give the booze the bite for which its maker strived. The powerful product is diluted with water from a Jeffersonville source that Elliott calls simply “Big Spring.”

Several Jeffersonville restaurants, including the Family Table, 158 Main and the Village Tavern at the Smugglers’ Notch Inn, already carry the vodka. But Elliott hopes its popularity will spread if he gives restaurateurs a signature drink in which to use it. For the next two weeks, the Smugglers’ Notch Distillery’s website and Facebook page are running a contest to concoct the cocktail. Elliott says that, since his site launched last Friday, he’s been inundated with recipes.

In the new year, Elliott plans to begin work on a gin. Once he’s happy with that recipe, he’ll try his hand at white and dark rums. Before long, Elliott hopes, spirits aficionados will be able to taste a whole range of liquors at his Lamoille County storefront — no smuggling necessary.