The Vermont gin and vodka maker Caledonia Spirits is launching a limited-edition product made from pure Vermont maple syrup.
Syrup from Farnham Farm Maple in Plainfield is the key ingredient in the new vodka from the Hardwick company also behind the popular gin and vodka label Barr Hill, which is made from honey.
"Most people think vodka comes from potatoes," noted Ryan Christiansen of Caledonia Spirits.
However, no potatoes, corn or grain are used in making the new vodka. Maple is fermented at the distillery, with yeast consuming the fermenting sugars to make alcohol.
Christiansen paid a premium on top of Farnham Farm's typical bulk syrup prices, with a goal to boost a small family farm while creating new experiences for vodka drinkers.
"I don't think anybody likes to pay bills, but writing a check to a local farmer — you feel pretty good about writing that check," Christiansen said.
"We need to work together, to make it work for everybody," said Kevin Farnham of Farnham Farm Maple, adding that he hopes the partnership helps him grow his business.
Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said he is glad to see a sugar maker find a new market for his product, and to know one gallon of maple syrup can produce eight bottles of Caledonia Spirits vodka that retail for $35 apiece.
"That's really enhancing that value of the product," Tebbetts observed. "Our spirits industry is taking off — much like our craft beer industry has taken off."
If you're curious: no, the drink does not taste like breakfast. Most of the maple flavor is lost during the production, with just a slight aroma sticking around.
"It's definitely a true-to-form vodka, with just a subtle maple hue," Christiansen said, describing how the vodka is not sweet.
More partnerships are in the pipeline. Christiansen said he wants to keep using creative ingredients from Vermont farms to spotlight the talent and hard work from his state.
Initially, the new maple vodka will be available from Caledonia Spirits' tasting facility in Hardwick. It will be released Saturday at an event called "Vodka & Pancakes," which runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the distillery on Log Yard Drive in Hardwick.