Lamoille in the News
A full-color, tabloid-sized (the same size as the current Transcript) News & Citizen will launch in early January.
The revamped weekly newspaper will be a merger of the current broadsheet-format (the larger sized paper) News & Citizen and the free weekly, The Transcript.
Thursday will be publication; the first issue will hit mailboxes and newsstands Jan. 7.
The revamped weekly will serve Morrisville, Hyde Park, Johnson, Cambridge and the rest of Lamoille County, plus neighboring areas that have been regularly receiving The Transcript.
“We think the new tabloid format and merger of the two papers into a single weekly for Morrisville and the county will allow us to build the strongest possible newspaper, from the perspective of both our readers and advertisers,” said Greg Popa, publisher of the News & Citizen and its two sister newspapers, the Stowe Reporter and Waterbury Record.
Stowe Reporter LLC bought the two Morrisville-based publications on Oct. 1 from Bradley Limoge, whose family has owned and operated the News & Citizen since 1923. The newspaper has been continuously published since 1881.
The new News & Citizen will be distributed free, inserted into mailboxes throughout the county. Its initial circulation will be 13,500 copies per week. The paper will be distributed to all towns in Lamoille County except Stowe.
“Change is never easy, but the No. 1 question we’ve been asked since our purchase of the Morrisville paper has been, ‘When are you going to abandon the broadsheet format?’” Popa said. “After taking a good look at the two papers and the markets they serve, we agreed that one great paper for Morrisville and Lamoille County is the way to go.
“We expect to build on the News & Citizen’s venerable reputation and long history of excellence in serving its communities,” he said.
The News & Citizen has covered and carried the news — town business, births, deaths, graduations, school sports — and commented on it, while The Transcript, which is free, was launched more recently, with a focus on advertising, lighter community fare, and advertising inserts. Combining the strengths of the two — and ending the duplication of efforts — made sense, Popa said.
The News & Citizen will move out of its longtime home on Portland Street in January. The new office will be in a historic building at 92 Lower Main St.
“Mickey Smith (editor of the News & Citizen) found the space and it perfectly serves our needs,” Popa said. “A downtown office provides great visibility. We’re looking forward to being in the village.”
The sales and news staff will work from the Morrisville office, while business, circulation and production functions will be consolidated at the Stowe Reporter’s offices in Stowe village.
Advertising combinations are in the works for the Stowe Reporter Company’s trio of newspapers. In January, the News & Citizen will also join the Burlington Area Newspaper Group (BANG). The BANG group of seven newspapers offers advertisers discounted rates in community weeklies in South Burlington, the Mad River Valley, Williston, Shelburne and Charlotte, in addition to the Reporter’s own publications. Through BANG, Lamoille County businesses can reach up to 55,000 households with just one ad buy.
Readers will experience expanded, aggressive news coverage in the new News & Citizen in an easy-to-read tabloid format. The newspaper will feature color photography and color advertising.
“We believe that a great newspaper is at the heart of a great community, which is why we are in this business and why we are dedicated to delivering the kind of news coverage that citizens expect and deserve,” said executive editor Tom Kearney, who oversees news and content at the company.
The Stowe Reporter and Waterbury Record have won numerous state and regional news and design awards under Kearney’s and Popa’s leadership, something they intend to duplicate at the News & Citizen.
by Andrew Martin
We must be involved in this project.
That was the message sent to the Hyde Park Select Board by the Hyde Park Village Board of Trustees on the topic of an ongoing study. Several trustees attended a meeting of the select board on Thursday, November 12 and asked to play a bigger role in the study that is looking into how to better connect Hyde Park Village and the surrounding area for pedestrians and bikers.
“The lack of our involvement is concerning,” Board of Trustee Chair Riki French stated at the meeting, “We have asked to be involved in the planning and decision making and we are still not.”
“There are a lot of good things to talk about with this project,” French added in praise of the study and possible ways to connect different parts of Hyde Park.
However, she again emphasized that the trustees need to be involved in the work moving forward. She explained that they were partners in applying for the grant that is funding the study but since the application was filed they have hardly been involved at all.
“We ask that as you complete the next steps we are involved,” she continued, “We are the elected representatives of the village and we have had nothing to say about this yet.”
“Why have we not been drawn into the project yet?” Tim Yarrow asked at the meeting, “We want to be involved in the scoping study.”
Both French and Yarrow also reiterated that the work done to collect community input thus far for the project has not been sufficient and may not be an accurate picture of what the community wants. One community survey was distributed and both trustees felt more community forums other than the single one that was held should have taken place to gather ideas and input.
“The trustees are here and we need, we must be involved in the project,” Yarrow stressed, “We represent the village residents.”
Yarrow added that the trustees are responsible for the governance and oversight of several different aspects of village life that the project falls under. He also questioned if more time could be added to the December deadline for the study to allow for more community input to be gathered.
“We would definitely like to see the December deadline pushed back…this process has to slow down,” he stated. While he was unsure on a specific timeline Yarrow emphasized that a period of several months would be necessary to gather enough input and comments to be sure what the community really wanted for such a large project.
“We aren’t trying to threaten anyone, we want to work together,” Yarrow concluded at the meeting.
The Hyde Park Select Board did not reply directly to the comments and questions put forth by French and Yarrow at the meeting. A call to Select Board Chair David Gagnier, who was not at the meeting on Thursday, had not been returned at press time.
Moving forward a final report and recommendations for the project will be prepared by the engineering firm hired to conduct the study, the Dufresne Group.
“The final report will be prepared by Dufresne Group and delivered to the Select Board when it is complete sometime in December,” Hyde Park Town Administrator Ron Rodjenski explained, adding that the Board of Trustees will also receive a final report at that time.
“There are no plans to have additional meetings other than the submittal of the final report,” Rodjenski continued on the topic of gathering more community input, “The scoping study will be the starting point for the future decisions on which projects move to construction.”
Rodjenski also emphasized that the Hyde Park community can choose what aspects of the scoping study it wants to make a reality.
“…the community may decide to modify the alternatives from Dufresne Group, defer them indefinitely and focus on maintenance & repair, or accelerate one or more projects,” he added, “As it is a planning document, the community will next need to decide which, if any, project to move forward to construction.”
The purpose of the meeting on November 12 that French and Yarrow raised their objections at was to gather further community input on the possible projects that could take place to improve the pedestrian infrastructure in Hyde Park. The alternatives were developed using the community input and ideas gathered at a previous meeting as well as in the survey that was sent out to residents in August.
Roughly 25 community members turned out for the informational meeting to provide their input.
According to Project Engineer Andrea Day the community input gathered thus far shows that one major priority would be a better and safer crossing of Route 15 somewhere near Hyde Park Village.
Among the options for a crossing is a crosswalk, bridge, or tunnel near Black Farm Road as well as possible crosswalks near Johnson Street Extension or the roundabout at the intersection of Route 15 and Route 100C.
Some community members present at the meeting expressed doubts over why such a crossing of Route 15 was necessary while others felt it would be a benefit to have a safe crossing that connected the Lamoille Union campus with Hyde Park Village and the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.
“A safe crossing somewhere would be nice,” one community member stated.
Other options that are still possibilities include improvements to the sidewalks on Church Street, new paths or sidewalks on East Main Street or West Main Street, and a few other small improvements in Hyde Park Village itself.
One concern raised by residents was the cost of such projects even if grant funding is used to cover the majority of the costs. Hyde Park would need to provide a local match for any grant funding that was awarded for a project.
Hyde Park officials are still looking for further community input on the proposed alternatives for improving the Hyde Park pedestrian infrastructure. Anyone interested can learn more about those alternatives and offer comments by visiting the site http://www.dufresnegroup.com/hydepark.
The presentation given by Project Engineer Andrea Day from the Dufresne Group listing the alternatives is also available on the Hyde Park town website under the ‘Highway’ tab. Any comments and input should be submitted by December 1.
by Kayla Friedrich
Just one year into a five-year contract, and the Lamoille Regional Solid Waste District’s transfer station in Johnson would like to renegotiate for concessions.
The solid waste district’s district manager Susan Alexander would like to see all Lamoille County town transfer stations consistent in their agreements. If the town of Johnson cannot make it consistent, the district will have to reevaluate whether or not it would like to go ahead with the physical improvements that it is thinking about making on the property.
“My understanding is that the district is planning on putting some sort of roofed structure over the recycling and garbage areas, where the drop-off is,” said Town Administrator Duncan Hastings. “The deal they have with Stowe, is that the town is financially obligated to carry the unamortized [unfinanced] portion of the structures of the buildings down there in the event that the agreement is terminated by Stowe before the full term of the mortgage or financing arrangement.”
Hastings says the Johnson Select Board is very uncomfortable with the notion of doing something like that with this structure, because they don’t feel that the roof would lend anything to the property in terms of value. Therefore, it doesn’t want the town’s taxpayers to be on the hook for paying the balance of the financing for a roof structure.
The other issues presented by the solid waste district were plowing, graveling and maintaining the driveway at the facility.
“That is specifically not included in our agreement,” said Hastings, “and I don’t think the Board is particularly interested in accepting that responsibility either.”
Plowing and maintaining the transfer station’s driveway would be a considerable amount of added work for the town highway department, According to Select Board Member Nat Kinney, the solid waste district said it costs them over $5,000 to plow the transfer station, even though it is only open two days a week. If the town plowed it, they would take up those costs. According to Hastings it would take hours to plow the transfer station, and the town would also have to hire more people to cover it’s town plowing work, which would mean raising taxes.
Johnson’s representative to the district Seth Manchester suggested that maybe the district could find a middle ground with the town of Johnson, where the town covers part of the plowing costs. However, Select Board Member Eric Nuse made the point that the town should not be responsible for maintaining a site that other towns use, so maybe the solid waste district should incorporate maintenance costs into its tipping fees, which are considerably lower than Casella. That would be fair for everyone.
Manchester said that idea had been considered.
Hastings also brought up the point that, while Stowe might pay for some of the maintenance of its transfer station, Stowe does have a much higher tax base than Johnson, and could probably raise taxes a little bit without any issues.
Johnson’s transfer station, according to Hastings, also offers a service that no other transfer stations in the district offers, which is stump dumping. Hastings said that the board feels that the town of Johnson is taking on some of the obligations from other communities, and the concessions the town got in its agreement with the district helps mitigate the fact that it is taking the stump dump materials for the entire district.
“The other piece that we wanted to relay through Seth Manchester to the district,” said Hastings, “is that we don’t think any host town should be performing those services for a transfer stations at the expense of the taxpayer of the host community. Our simple thought on this is that if the district needs more money it should be added to the tipping fees, which are paid for by everybody in every community. Then they could afford to pay for snow removal; et cetera.”
Hastings said that the town believes that the transfer station is a good thing for the district and town, and it doesn’t want to kick them out. The town just doesn’t want to hold the sole responsibility for maintenance.
by Andrew Martin
Let’s try this again.
A group of Elmore residents sent that message last week when they submitted a petition for a revote on the question of whether the Elmore School District should merge with the Morristown School District.
The merger was first voted down by Elmore residents on Tuesday, November 3 by a count of 197 to 164. The question of merging with Elmore was approved by Morristown voters in a separate vote.
The petition for a revote in Elmore bearing the names of 70 Elmore voters was submitted on Wednesday, November 11 and verified by the Elmore Town Clerk. According to Lamoille South Superintendent Tracy Wrend a revote must be held within 60 days of November 11 to resolve the issue, meaning that the revote will likely occur in late December or early January.
The Elmore School Board will meet on Wednesday, November 18 to set the official date for the vote.
An emphasis on getting the right information out to voters will be a priority for the Elmore School Board leading up to the vote.
“We will focus again on providing accurate factual information so that people don’t have the questions they did during the first vote on November 3,” Wrend added.
She also explained that at this point she and her staff will continue working with the school boards in both towns to develop separate individual budgets.
“We are still developing separate budgets,” Wrend explained, “We will have to deal with the question of a merged budget if and when Elmore voters actually make a different decision.”
by Andrew Martin
Thanks, but no thanks.
That appears to be the answer given by Elmore residents to the question of if they would like to merge with the Morristown School District, in order to reduce the tax rate. A merger would have altered the school choice many Elmore residents treasure and also raised the possibility of the Elmore School closing in the future.
“School choice and preserving the Elmore School seem to be top priorities from what we have heard,” said Lamoille South Supervisory Union Superintendent Tracy Wrend.
Of about 640 registred voters, 361 voters turned out last Tuesday in Elmore to answer the merger question. The result was a strong no with 197 voting against a merger while 164 voted in favor. The merger question passed in Morristown by four votes, but with Elmore voting against it work to merge the two districts will not go on.
“We were really pleased with voter turnout for the merger question,” Wrend said, “It shows us how much people care about their shared responsibility for public education.”
“The vote illustrated how hard a decision people have to make,” she added.
The vote last week answers the initial merger question but has only raised several more. Some of those questions center on how a revote on a merger would work. The window to submit a petition for a revote is 30 days but how the petition process works on a merger vote is still unclear.
A revote in at least Elmore would have to occur to overturn the decision. According to the Vermont Secretary of State’s office they believe each town has the option to reconsider the vote separately using the normal revote guidelines. This means that Morrisville could also reconsider the vote separately even though it has already been approved there. School officials are still looking for final answers to the questions around a possible revote.
“We are looking into whether there needs to be one petition from each town, if there has to be a revote in each town, and a few other questions,” Superintendent Wrend explained.
How can we fix our tax rate problem?
That is the major challenge and question now facing Elmore residents and leaders after the merger with Morrisville has been voted down. Current projections have the tax rate in Elmore skyrocketing for Fiscal Year 2018 as the school district’s next budget will cross the tax rate threshold that incurs penalties.
“I see no scenario based on current information that would in any way shape or form lead me to believe that the tax rates in Elmore will not cross into the excess spending threshold penalty level,” Wrend stated.
Officials at the supervisory union anticipate that the increase in the tax rate could approach 40 cents for the upcoming budget thanks to those spending penalties.
To address this issue the Elmore School Board will likely begin considering other merger options at their next few meetings.
“Elmore definitely needs to look at other solutions, and state law requires it,” Wrend said in reference to Act 46. If some kind of agreement between Elmore and Morristown cannot be reached than she believes Elmore will have to look for several similar districts to merge with. The hope would be that such a merger would allow for a lower tax rate while also meeting the requirements of Act 46.
Wolcott would be the closest potential partner that is somewhat similar to Elmore since it also has an elementary school and offers school choice to older students. However, even Wolcott has a number of differences as a district compared to Elmore.
“There are no systems that operate exactly like Elmore,” Wrend explained, referring to the fact that Elmore only educates a portion of its own elementary students.
The ‘no’ vote on the merger does not mean that Morristown will face a steep spike in the local tax rate yet. The Morristown School Board will still begin considering new options moving forward though now that the possibility of Elmore students leaving the Morristown school district is more real.
Both school boards could also begin exploring a conventional merger under Act 46. A conventional merger would need all school districts in Lamoille South to participate though, meaning Stowe would also have to sign on. At this point the Stowe School board has made it clear that they like the way the three districts collaborate right now but are not really interested in merging school districts under Act 46.
“I’m confident the communities of Elmore and Morristown will continue to have these hard conversations and work together to figure out the best way to fulfill that important obligation to provide public education to their children,” Superintendent Wrend said.
While they consider future options the boards in Elmore and Morristown will also be working on creating individual budgets for their current districts that will be presented at Town Meeting next year.
“We need to be prepared with budgets for our current state,” Wrend stated, “We have an obligation to the taxpayers to ensure the schools run smoothly.”
by Andrew Martin
“Where can I report my deer?”
That could be the question some local hunters are asking this season after they’ve bagged a big buck. Lamoille County has had three big game reporting stations shut down since the end of the 2013 deer season, leaving hunters with only four stations in the county to report and weigh in their deer.
A note on the scales at the Wolcott Store tells customers they are no longer weighing deer. - Martin photo
The Elmore and Wolcott Store both shut down their reporting stations this year while the River Valley Store in Johnson stopped weighing in game before hunting season last year. The recent closures do make for a bit more of a drive for some hunters, but state officials aren’t concerned yet.
“It is a bit of an issue because Lamoille County is one of the sparser regions in terms of weigh stations,” explained Nick Fortin, the Deer Project Leader for the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife, “The rest of the state seems to be holding steady though.”
The four stations in Lamoille County is the lowest figure for any county in the state other than Grand Isle County, which has two. Essex County also has only four reporting stations, Chittenden County has five, and the rest of the counties around Lamoille have eight or more.
“We like to have as many stations as we can to make it easier for hunters,” Fortin continued, “We are hoping it never gets to the point where it is more than a half hour drive for any hunter to report their deer.”
Fortin added that the preferred option is for hunters to have to drive no further than the next town over to report big game. That goal still exists in Lamoille County even after the recent closings.
The four remaining reporting stations in Lamoille County are Ingalls Market in Eden, Cambridge Village Market in Cambridge, The Old Fishing Hole Gun Shop in Morrisville, and The Fly Rod Shop in Stowe.
The reasons why the three stations in Lamoille County decided to stop reporting big game vary. According to Elmore Store co-owner Kathy Miller there were several reasons she and her husband Warren decided to make the change.
“We recently just built a new deck and four season room for customers,” Miller explained. That new deck is located where the scales for the reporting station normally were installed. The need to pay $30 per year to recertify their scale also played into the Miller’s decision.
“That’s 30 animals a year just to pay for that,” Miller added, referring to the fact that the state pays reporting stations one dollar for each animal reported.
The loss of the right to sell hunting licenses was also a factor in the decision by the Millers. The loss of that Vermont tradition bothered them, and the hassle of having hunters show up at odd hours to report game also caused issues.
Both Millers feel that within a few years Vermont will copy some neighboring states and have all big game reported online.
“We are sorry to see the loss of another Vermont tradition,” Kathy Miller concluded.
Fred and Sally Martin, the owners of the Wolcott Store, made the decision for slightly different reasons. The number of big game animals being reported at the store had been diminishing over the last few years, and when the store’s scale began reading inaccurately the owners decided to close the reporting station.
The owners of the River Valley Store in Johnson stated that they would rather not comment on why they stopped weighing in game after the 2013 hunting season.
Along with the reporting stations still open in Lamoille County there are also several stations just outside the county where hunters can report big game. Those options include Riteway Sports in Hardwick, the Jericho General Store in Jericho, the Fletcher General Store in Fletcher, the Craftsbury Village Store in Craftsbury, and Parro’s Gun Shop and Police Supplies in Waterbury.
by Andrew Martin
CAMBRIDGE – It was enough to drive a person to drink. In 2013, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery of Jeffersonville was already creating its new wheat whiskey when it was slapped with lawsuits filed by Italian liquor giant Davide Compari-Milano.
It was a classic David-and-Goliath story.
Ron and Jeremy Elliot stand behind the counter in their Jeffersonville store and tasting room holding bottles of their new wheat whiskey, Litigation. The father and son team completed a drawn-out legal battle with an Italian liquor giant in 2014 and as part of the settlement must now give any whiskeys they produce a special name. - Martin Photo
Davide Compari-Milano, the sixth biggest spirits producer in the world, charged the Vermont company with trademark infringement. One of Davide Compari-Milano’s best-sellers is Old Smuggler, a blended Scotch whiskey sold primarily in South America, Eastern Europe, and parts of the United States.
The company claimed that the Smugglers’ Notch Distillery name and brand infringed on its trademark rights, and so did the “Smuggle some home today” tagline being used by the distillery’s owners, father and son pair Ron and Jeremy Elliot.
The Elliots put that all behind them last Wednesday, when they held a release party to celebrate the launch of Litigation, their new wheat whiskey.
Jeremy and Ron fought back against the Italian company, enlisting the aid of the Downs Rachlin Martin law firm of Burlington, and by May of 2014 a compromise had been reached. The Elliots were allowed to keep the name Smugglers’ Notch Distillery but have to name any whiskey produced after the settlement with a special name rather than calling it simply Smugglers’ Notch Distillery Wheat Whiskey.
“We settled on a medium ground which allows us to keep our existing name and the names for our initial products,” Jeremy explained, “Any future whiskeys must have a fanciful name.”
Ron and Jeremy had feared that they would have to change the entire name and brand of their company, which can spell disaster for a small business.
“The worst case scenario was that we could have been issued a cease and desist order for our name and had to change it completely…everything we have done to this point in terms of branding would have been lost and we would have had to start from scratch,” Jeremy explained.
As part of the compromise any future whiskeys produced by the Vermont company would need to have the special name of that spirit appear on the label in the largest font. The phrase ‘by Smugglers’ Notch Distillery’ is allowed to follow that special name in smaller print. The vodka, rum, gins, and whiskeys being produced by Smugglers’ Notch Distillery before the settlement was reached do not have to be renamed.
“We had really good representation,” Jeremy Elliot explained in praise of the legal counsel that represented him and his father.
The win that will allow the Elliots to keep their name did come at a price; they are not longer allowed to use the “Smuggle some home today” tag line on any of their products.
“We can’t use the word smuggled or any variation of it on our products other than using it in our name,” Ron Elliot explained.
The eventual compromise with the Italian liquor giant also had other consequences for the Elliots.
“It was definitely a very stressful time in our company’s history,” Jeremy added, explaining that he and Ron were forced to spend funds they had set aside for future growth in order to resolve the legal issues.
“What we ended up spending was a lot of what we had allocated for a new still, the growth of our marketing department, and bringing in new employees,” he added.
While their new wheat whiskey was already in the works when the legal battle began it was not released before the resolution of the conflict. This meant that the product had to have a special new name, so Ron and Jeremy began brainstorming with their families in search of a solution. They decided that the circumstances surrounding the whiskey made Litigation a perfect name.
Litigation is not only the first spirit from Smugglers’ Notch Distillery to bear a special name but it is also a fairly rare type of whiskey.
“There are very few wheat whiskeys on the market,” Jeremy stated, “We thought we could capitalize on that, and given our track record we could produce a very good wheat whiskey.”
That belief has been well founded, as Litigation has proven to be a hit thus far. The whiskey actually had a very good smell only three weeks after being produced, but the Elliots wanted to let it age much longer to bring out even more of the good qualities of the liquor.
“It was very good even at three weeks, and we couldn’t wait for it to be ready,” Jeremy stated.
“On the nose, you’ll find the subtle hints of butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, and a slight woody scent,” he explained in a press release issued on the launch of Litigation, “A sip will reveal a smooth well-balanced bright taste that envelops but does not linger. It is truly a remarkable spirit.”
“The long, arduous, costly and contentious battle, which consumed a great deal of time and energy, could not dissuade us from our primary goal, which is to present incomparable spirits to an appreciative assemblage of fine spirit consumers,” Ron Elliot stated in a press release on the launch of Litigation.
The new whiskey is currently sold in 750 mL and 50 mL bottles at the Smugglers’ Notch Distillery tasting rooms on Main Street in Jeffersonville and on Route 100 in Waterbury Center. Like several of their other products the Elliots are planning to continuously supply Vermont’s liquor stores with Litigation and the bottles will soon be available at liquor outlets.
While Ron and Jeremy were forced to spend a great deal of funds on resolving their legal issues with the Italian-based company they do still have plans for further expansion of their wares.
“We are working on a couple new products and are pretty excited about them,” Jeremy explained, “One of them is a whiskey derivative, so it too will have a special name.”
“We want to constantly keep adding new products,” Ron added.
by Tommy Gardner
Remember Green Mountain Distillers? It made a big splash in 2002 when its Stowe-made Sunshine Vodka hit shelves, ranking among the best-selling Vermont spirits.
Get ready for a bigger splash from owners Tim Danahy and Harold “Howie” Faircloth III, who now have a much bigger pool to splash around in.
Harold Faircloth III, and Timothy Danahy in the new tasting room at the Green Mountain Distillers facility on Route 100 in Morrisville. - Glenn Callahan photo
Green Mountain Distillers opens its new tasting room in its spacious new digs today, Nov. 5. The distillery is in Morristown, at 2919 Laporte Road, also known as Route 100, near Green Mountain Landscaping.
The new space allows making spirits at a much greater volume, and also allows Faircloth and Danahy to unveil a new line of one-off creations, dubbed the Hypothesis series. You’ll be able to get the special reserves only by visiting the distillery.
“And once they’re gone, they’re gone,” Faircloth said. “We’ve been keeping these ones secret for a long time.”
New place, same faces
The duo has been producing in the new spot since July, but needed until now to open it to visitors. That was partly for safety; it’s a pretty big endeavor to fire up the pot still for the first time, with a frisson of fright.
“It takes 190 gallons of water to put out 1 gallon of vodka” if it catches fire, Danahy says.
The other reason: Liquor distributors were grabbing all the goods as soon as Green Mountain slapped on the labels. The company has already tripled its output, yet it still took several months to stock the retail area with enough bottles.
For now, tasting room visitors are limited to an ounce’s worth of sampling, per state law. But next year, Danahy and Faircloth hope to work around that by throwing a party — actually, as many as 104 parties. That’s the number of special events per year allowed by the distillery’s zoning permit. Danahy casually mentions a whiskey-fest.
The operation has two halves: a tasting room and the production areas. The sterile, white walls of the distilling room — with its ultra-modern gadgetry, shining metal still and its storage and dilution tanks — evoke an operating room, a spaceship engine room, a top-secret lab.
The tasting room? That’s like hanging out in someone’s farmhouse living room.
Danahy and Faircloth ransacked a buddy’s ramshackle barn for materials, and incorporated its rough timbers into the tasting room, alongside the bowed staves from whiskey and wine barrels that make up the side of the bar and the trim along the ceiling.
“Literally, everything in here’s been something else,” Danahy said.
Agricultural implements line the walls, along with ephemera from the history of spirit-making — beakers and cylinders and swirly glass tubes, and, from Green Mountain Distillers’ own history, Sunshine’s early glass jugs, beloved by customers but oft-reviled by bartenders who found them unwieldy.
From the tasting room, you can gaze into the heart of the machine, as it were: The gleaming still towers over everything as silently, out of sight, the fermented mash is distilled six times per batch.
“Why hide our most precious thing?” Faircloth says.
Faircloth, the smaller and more wiry of the duo, speaks in gravelly clips and quips, eyes darting around like a terrier in search of a rat. Danahy, big and tall and sporting a long white goatee that looks like a chin ponytail, is more laconic, constantly smiling at some inside joke or fond remembrance.
They’ve known each other, worked side by side long enough, to finish each other’s sentences, often peppered with F-bombs, and they don’t mince their words when weighing in on whatever they want. They are a couple of sweethearts who just talk a little salty.
On the federal permit process: It took a long (expletive) time to get the federal permits to build the new distillery, as the project started just as the (expletive) feds took notice of all the distilleries popping up, they cracked down, and Green Mountain was the first to feel the whip. On the bright side, the (expletive) fire suppression system is arguably the best in the entire state. Remember, 190 gallons of water to put out 1 flaming gallon of vodka, and these guys are making hundreds of gallons at a time.
On poseurs: It’s a well-known secret that a lot of purveyors of fine Vermont liquors don’t actually make their own stuff, but buy the neutral grain spirits and then age them, add flavors to them, or just put them in nice bottles. It’s a time-honored tradition, and it’s not a bad thing, but Danahy and Faircloth would like you to know that, not only have they been around longer than just about anyone in Vermont, they make their own product.
That product has, for the past decade, been largely popularized by the company’s Sunshine Vodka, which Food and Wine Magazine described as “silky smooth with a ghostly touch of sweetness on the finish.” It’s the one in the bottle with the green label, and it’s their original Vermont vodka.
But here’s the secret: Sunshine is not really Faircloth and Danahy’s original product. That distinction belongs to the stuff aging in an oak barrel stashed in a dim corner of the distillery, the same barrel it’s been in for 13 years. It’s an unnamed single-malt whiskey, and it’s the first thing these two beer-brewing buddies from Charm City created when they founded Green Mountain Distillers in 2002.
Faircloth draws a tiny amount — a few drops, really — and it goes down like the good scotch your grandpa never had. Temptation has come countless times over the decade to tap that barrel and share it, but it remains admirably full.
“Yeah, we try to forget that’s there,” Danahy said.
That history typifies the future of the company, and the potential of the new tasting room and distillery. They’re calling their new small-batch one-offs the Hypothesis line, with creations like that 13-year-old single malt and a 12-year-old one right behind it. And it will include a honey liquor that Faircloth poured into a glass and I poured into my gullet and felt like one with the bees in the fields. Or something like that. It was really good, and it’s really secret, and it will be gone really quickly once it hits shelves.
When Green Mountain started, there was only one other distiller in Vermont, and he made a vodka out of milk. That man, Duncan Holaday, has made a name for himself in the Vermont hard liquor world, and even put his name on the bottle: Dunc’s Mill.
Danahy and Faircloth don’t have their names on their labels, but everyone knows them. And while other distillers have come to prominence in the past few years, these two have been playing the long game, waiting for their permit.
And now, it’s game on, again.
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