Growth spurt puts distillery on the move

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BRATTLEBORO — Saxtons River Distillery is moving and expanding.

Founder Christian Stromberg said the 11-year-old distillery outgrew its current location on Route 30 in Brattleboro and purchased a building on Chickering Drive for an expanded distillery and tasting room.

The new space, former home of Woodman Athletics, is four times the size of the distillery's current building.

"It was like stuffing 10 pounds of potatoes in a five pound bag," he said.

He said the distillery, which makes the popular Sapling maple liqueur and Snowdrop gin as well as Perc coffee liqueur, will maintain its high visibility tasting room on Route 30 through the move.

Stromberg started the distillery at his home in Cambridgeport before moving to Brattleboro in 2011     . He said the new location will probably not be ready until December.

"It's a gymnastics space and it needs electrical and plumbing work," Stromberg said. He expects the total cost of the building and expansion to top $1 million.

Saxtons River Distillery recently received a $350,000 low interest loan from the state-administered Windham County Economic Development Program — an effort that uses seed money from Entergy Nuclear to help rebuild the Windham County economy since the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in 2014.

Stromberg said the company had worked closely with Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., as well as Vermont Economic Development Authority and People's United Bank.

"It was complicated and took a long time," he said.

Stromberg said the distillery had originally planned on building a new home on Route 9 in West Brattleboro, but ultimately decided the site was too expensive to develop because of its close proximity to the Whetstone Brook.

"It was just too difficult to build next to the Whetstone," he said. "It was going to be really expensive."

Raised 'spirits'

The increased space will allow the distillery to expand the production of its fastest-growing product, Snowdrop Gin.

The gin is flavored with 18 different botanicals, including juniper berries from Hungary and herbs and spices such as ginger, cardamom and coriander, star anise, cocoa, sarsaparilla and grains of paradise. The spirit has proved very popular, he said.

"It's our newest product and it's gaining momentum," he said. The gin was given a high rating by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

The distillery is described by state officials as capitalizing on "Lithuanian traditions and flavors of Vermont."

Stromberg said some of the Snowdrop botanicals are exotic and could never be grown in Vermont, but he said the company was taking the long view and would be planting some cedar trees to produce the juniper berries, which are actually tiny pine cones. Juniper is the dominant flavoring in gin.

"Cedar takes a long time," he said.

Stromberg said the Snowdrop gin doesn't require lengthy aging, unlike the bourbon and maple-infused whisky.

He said coming up with the recipe for the Snowdrop gin was a long, trial-and-error process involving many different botanicals. "We played with camomile in gin," he said.

He said naming it was just as involved. "It's the first spring flower and snow," he said.

He noted that because of trademarks, there are a lot of names that are not available. "We are careful. We do the pre-work," he said, to avoid being sued by another trademark holder.

"It's all about being fun and creative," he said.

Contact Susan Smallheer

at ssmallheer@reformer.com

or 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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