Stowe Distillery Pioneers Organic Spirits

Green Mountain Distillers dishes on good grains, maple liqueur, and what to sip after a cold day on the slopes.

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In and around Stowe, local spirits fuel the après scene. And near the base of Vermont’s highest peak, Green Mountain Distillers makes 100-percent organic, six-time distilled vodka, gin, and even a maple liqueur, which it distributes in town and nationwide. Co-owner Tim Danahy, who laid down first tracks in the organic distilling business in 2002 with co-owner Harold Faircloth III, answered our questions about their mountain-town distillery.

Why did you decide to distill in Stowe?

We moved to town in 1997 to work at a brewery in town called the Shed, a longtime Stowe institution that had burned to the ground [in 1994]. When they rebuilt, they put a microbrewery in. They hired my partner Howie to come run the brewery, and I came with him to help.

We’d been there for like 5 years, and then we decided we wanted to do something on our own. Putting a second brewery in town didn’t really seem like the thing to do, so that was the impetus for starting the distillery.

Is there anything about being at the base of a mountain that affects the process of distilling?

No, not in and of itself. For us, being a ski town, it’s been awesome, because there are so many bars and restaurants and things in town. We’ve been embraced by the community at a very high level, so our community support has been great.

We’re actually on the municipal water system here, but Stowe gets all of its water from three springs located around the mountain—that’s our basic water supply.

What’s unique about the spirits that you produce?

The biggest thing is that we’re 100-percent certified organic, which was very unusual when we started. When we got it out on the market, at the beginning of 2005, there weren’t very many organic distilled spirits. It definitely gets people to try it who might not normally try our product. Because it’s organic they’ll give it a shot. Also, our flavor is excellent. Usually, once we get people to try it, we’ve got a continuing customer.

Is it the quality of the ingredients that affects the flavor?

Yes. Organic white corn is the base product, and it comes from a co-op of family farmers in Minnesota. And the grain is just that much better. When we were first starting, we were searching for grain suppliers. The first people you go to are the big guys—Archer Daniels Midland or somebody like that. They can’t even tell you what country your grain is coming from. So to be able to deal with people who are closely associated with their product has been great and definitely makes a taste difference.

What is your most popular liquor?

Our regular organic vodka is by far our biggest seller, but we also do a couple flavored vodkas, lemon and orange. We also do an organic gin and an organic maple liqueur. Our regular organic vodka is the biggest seller, just because that’s the biggest selling segment of the liquor market.

I think we’re in every local bar and restaurant in Stowe. Like I said, we get great community support.

So what do you think is the best après-ski drink?

Oh, boy. There are so many. People use our vodka and our maple liqueur and they make a maple martini. It’s basically two parts vodka, one part maple liqueur, and then they rim the glass in dried maple sugar.

What’s your favorite après drink?

My favorite? I drink the maple liqueur, just straight up. And it’s great sitting by a wood stove after a super cold day. Our winter has been just crazy cold here, so it’s perfect to sit by the wood stove with a little glass of that. That’s pretty awesome.