Metcalfes distill new liqueur flavor on Hogback
MARLBORO -- Ed Metcalfe is modest about his liqueur business, but he has plans to expand.
"We're a really small operation," he said. "We were licensed two or three years ago and went into production in November of last year."
The first product that Ed and his son, Gus, 25, made was Metcalfe's Vermont Maple Cream Liqueur. People said it tasted like melted maple syrup.
This concoction was made by blending maple syrup and distilled spirits with fresh cream.
"It's really taken off for us," said Ed. "Almost every liquor store in the state carries it. There's a couple stragglers that don't have it. Everyone says it's just wonderful. We've gotten so many great comments."
Ed has run the Hogback Gift Shop since 2002, and he bought the property in 2007. He also runs the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum, which is located inside the shop.
Metacalfe's Maple Cream Liqueur has won awards and write-ups that include a four-star Spirit's Journal review. It was highly recommended by the industry magazine.
Four-hundred cases of the maple cream liqueur have been delivered around to state liquor stores.
Before deciding on maple cream, Ed thought about doing just a maple flavored liqueur, but Saxons River Distillery had already been successful with that flavor.
Ed then won a business plan competition for new businesses, which was run by the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation in 2008. He won $10,000.
"One of the judges said, ‘If you win, will you use it to start (the business)?' I said yes. I wanted to win the prize," Ed said.
On April 5, Ed and his son Gus bottled the family's newest, Metcalfe's Raspberry Liqueur. This flavored liqueur will be presented to the State Liquor Department on April 10. If it is approved for state stores like the maple liqueur, it will most likely be available in two to three weeks.
The raspberry liqueur is already available at the tasting and sales outlet in the Hogback Mountain Gift Shop.
"It's a relatively small product," he said. "We're bottling 25 cases."
Ed told the Reformer that he went with raspberry because he always liked that flavor.
Back in 1985, Ed started the North River Winery, which he sold in 1997. He said the raspberry wine won a bunch of gold medals.
"I thought it'd be the next thing to do," he said in reference to the liqueur. "I found with the winery, that people always say they like dry wine but always buy sweet."
Ed and Gus are mostly "rectifying or blending" the spirits with the other products.
With the maple cream liqueur, they are blending then sending that mix out to have the cream added. It takes two stages of high pressure homogenization to blend the cream and maple.
When making the raspberry liqueur, Ed and Gus buy fresh frozen raspberry juice then blend it with the spirits.
Gus told the Reformer that he'd eventually like to grow the raspberries himself. His major in college right now is horticulture.
They've been trying other companies' raspberry liqueurs "to see if it's in the ballpark and if it's better," said Ed.
He mentioned that their raspberry liqueur makes a good mixer and there will eventually be Metacalfe recipes to utilize the liqueur.
It takes several hours to mix the liqueur, which Ed and Gus use barrels for. The first batch usually takes longer because they have to keep testing it while making sure they stay sober at the same time.
Also on the horizon, Ed mentioned, is lemoncillo and vodka. He's also setting up a bar section at the Hogback building this summer.
"We're going to have a tasting outlet," he said. "We'll run it as a separate business, not part of the gift shop."
Ed thinks his family will sell a lot of spirits. His son, Dominic, 22, has been working on graphics and the initial website for the liqueurs.
"Not this year, but maybe 2014, I hope to buy a vodka still, which is a pretty big apparatus," said Ed. "It costs over $100,000."
Right now, the Metcalfes are trying to put out as much of their maple cream liqueur as they can.
Ed said it had just been listed in New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago. It's also been on sale in Wisconsin, North Dakota and Oregon.
"We're working hard on getting it in all the North Eastern states," he said.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.
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