Vermont's Mountain spirit
The alchemy of a father/son dream. That’s the magic that created Smugglers’ Notch Distillery®, founded by father and son Ron and Jeremy Elliott. In 2006, Ron, a retired business executive, and Jeremy, a research chemist in the pharmaceutical industry, teamed up to follow their collective passion to establish a distillery in the Vermont mountainside.
The backstory is that in 2006, Jeremy’s pharmaceutical firm wanted to send him overseas, however Jeremy had other ideas. He wanted to stay in Vermont where he had lived since graduating from the University of Vermont. In searching for ways to stay in VT, he took some leave-of-absence time from the pharmaceutical position to learn out west about distilling and develop a formula for creating a smooth and flavorful vodka, a tricky task. His professed goal: to make the world’s best vodka! While family applauded his ambition, and Jeremy was hard at work on his formula, Jeremy began his quest for investors in his idea. Though these offers were forthcoming, that’s when father and son decided to keep the company solely a family partnership and set to work on developing a brand, an operational plan and site, and applying for all of the federal and state permitting required.
To their delight, within the first 9 months of the release in 2010, the vodka had won the highest awards that can be won in the spirits industry:
A Gold medal from the Beverage Testing Institute; awarded 95 points by Wine Enthusiast which earned it the title of #1 domestic vodka;
and a Double Gold medal in the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco.
Smugglers’ Notch Vodka is made from a combination of sweet corn and winter wheat sourced from Idaho and then blended with Vermont spring water. Because vodka is 60 percent water, this local source gives the spirit a truly Vermont terrior. The filtration process used also sets this product apart from others. Rather than charcoal filtering, the Elliotts use a particulate filter, which allows the vodka to retain some of its natural flavors.
The distillery was founded in 2006 at the foot of the famed Smugglers’ Notch, site of many a clandestine bootlegger’s run through this rugged Vermont mountain pass. The smuggling route was first used during the 1800s to move goods during the trade embargo and then again in the 1920s to move liquor during prohibition. Today this enchanting area provides outdoor enthusiasts with a boulder-laden curved mountain road and caves to explore.
In the early years, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery was mostly a family operation. Many an early bottling line was manned with family and friends. With expansion into more states, an online presence, and development of new spirits and products, opening of more tasting rooms and a larger facility that now offers automation in the bottling line and room for expanded visitor experiences, the staff has grown.
Growing across vermont
Four tasting rooms including one in Burlington, Stowe/Waterbury, Manchester, and at the flagship store in the 10-acre distillery facility in Jeffersonville offer experiences for visitors to learn about the team’s story and process. This is a team that has grown from a father/son dream into a thriving community of contributors to the future of Smugglers’ Notch Distillery.
Since launching their Double Gold Award-Winning Vodka back in 2010, SND has grown organically and gone on to craft multiple gold and silver medal award-winning bourbons, gins, rum, rye, flavored vodka, Double Gold Winning Vermont Maple Cream Liqueur, and most recently, Maple Gin and Vermont Bourbon Maple Cream Liqueur.
created locally by passionate people
Partnership with a local maple sugaring operation has been key to offering uniquely Vermont flavor profiles as well as a line of spirit barrel-aged maple syrups: bourbon, rye, and rum barrel-aged maple syrup.
As Jeremy says, “Our spirits are unique and special because of our obsession with great taste, the science that goes into the development and process of each spirit, and the consistent exceptional quality of each bottle. We never rush to market, taking the time and having the patience to produce spirits that meet a high standard. We genuinely believe that people enjoy sourcing high-quality products that are created locally by passionate people.”