Good Spirits from Vermont: Caledonia Barr Hill Gin

Before you even decide what cocktail you want to make and before you even open the bottle, there’s something about Caledonia’s Barr Hill Gin that you can’t help but notice. And not just with your eyes. It’s the aroma.

Before you even decide what cocktail you want to make and before you even open the bottle, there’s something about Caledonia’s Barr Hill Gin that you can’t help but notice. And not just with your eyes. It’s the aroma.

It’s not that it is the least bit uncommon for a bottle of spirits to be sealed in wax, but Bar Hill looks a little different — and smells a lot different.

That’s because the creamy-looking waxy seal on the bottle is actually raw bee’s wax, nodding to distiller/owner Todd Hardie’s long history with the buzzy little creatures. “Honey is magical! We source ours regionally from Vermont and New York,” says Tanya Thomas of Caledonia Spirits in Hardwick, VT. “Todd was a commercial bee keeper for 30 years, during which time he forged lasting relationships with dedicated bee keepers in both states. Sealing the bottles with wax is a special touch that does enhance the distinct and lovely aroma that the bees exude.”

Todd, who tended his first bee hive on the family farm in Maryland at the tender age of nine with his brother, Tom, has a deep respect and commitment to the land around him. After college, Todd landed in Hardwick, where he continued to work as a commercial beekeeper, and fell in love with the hardscrabble countryside and it yielded. His first honey house straddled the border of Vermont and Canada, where once sat a bar called the Bucket of Blood, its name garnered from the booze-fueled brawls that’s would erupt among its rough and tumble customers. But what lead Tom to distilling was a far more gentle relationship between honey and fermentation.

Five years ago, he began with mead – honey wine – employing local winemakers to turn his raw gold into sweet nectar. In 2011, Caledonia Spirits began distilling gin, vodka, and an elderberry cordial in the distillery on the banks of the Lamoille River, sourcing grains, seed, herbs, and honey from nearby farms.

But back to that bee’s wax sealed bottle — it adds a sort of North Country notion of terroir to the whole package; charmingly unusual and easy to love. Pull the cork and sniff – you immediately will notice a delicate, floral-like sweetness like honey right off the comb, tipping you off to the pretty, nuanced qualities Bar Hill Gin possesses in the glass. In the glass, it comes alive like a new season, with aromas of springtime grass, lily of the valley, lemon peel, and sage. In your mouth, that complexity keeps going with a finishing bit of snappy white pepper, but with an oh-so easy to drink personality that’s so silky and slippery texture in texture, you kind of want to drink it all by itself – or, even better, with a really good-quality tonic on a warm summer’s day.

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Why wait for summer? Come try Caledonia’s Barr Hill Gin yourself at Good Spirits, our annual cocktail and food pairing party next month. More info and tickets here.

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Amy Zavatto is the daughter of an old school Italian butcher who used to sell bay scallops alongside steaks, and is also the former Deputy Editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She holds her Level III Certification in Wine and Spirits from the WSET, and contributes to Imbibe, Whisky Advocate, SOMMJournal, Liquor.com, and others. She is the author of Forager's Cocktails: Botanical Mixology with Fresh, Natural Ingredients and The Architecture of the Cocktail. She's stomped around vineyards from the Finger Lakes to the Loire Valley and toured distilleries everywhere from Kentucky to Jalisco to the Highlands of Scotland. When not doing all those other things, Amy is the Director of the Long Island Merlot Alliance.