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Ten Minutes with Jack Baker

A community-minded distiller



Jack Baker grew up in the beverage business and has added to its scope with his new Litchfield Distillery. A great supporter of community organizations, he is past chairman of the Connecticut Community Foundation, former chair of Warren Planning and Zoning, and serves on the Warren Land Trust. He and his wife Pam recently received a Patron of the Arts Award from the governor.

Your family owns Crystal Rock Water Company. How did that get started?
My grandfather Henry Baker Sr. started the company in 1914. The Northeast had a large settlement of European immigrants who were used to drinking only bottled water. So he would take his horse and wagon, go to the country, fill his bottles with spring water, and sell it to locals. Then he’d go back and get more.

Were you expected to join the family business?
After college I thought might pursue an artistic career, but I married when I was 20 and we had a child soon after, so I needed to be able to support a family. I am now executive vice-president of the company.

What made you decide to start the Litchfield Distillery?
Crystal Rock makes coffee as well as water, and we were looking for other opportunities to expand our beverage business. There is a growing market for craft-distilled beverages and my brother David had a particular interest in the craft industry so we decided to start it up. My other brother Peter is an investor in the business.

Why did you chose Litchfield?
I lived in Litchfield for 18 years before we moved to Warren. It’s a beautiful town. The building was available, the town was welcoming, and it’s a high-traffic area because of the vineyards. It’s also halfway between my home and my Crystal Rock office.

You started out producing bourbon. How do you go about creating a new beverage?
A formula in the brewing and distilling industry is called a mash bill. We based ours on a traditional one—70 percent corn, 25 percent rye, and 5 percent barley. We source the corn and rye from a farm in Sharon. We can make world-class spirits here because the corn here is excellent.

How far are you distributing?
Right now, we are focusing on Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. We want to concentrate on our own backyard. We got an email with some interest from Europe so we are excited about that prospect.

What other products are coming out of the distillery?
We now have several different types of bourbon and a vodka, and we are adding some seasonal flavored vodkas. We have a blueberry and we are working on an apple one as well. We are trying to think up unique things, like our new coffee bourbon.

If you had to describe this part of the state to someone what would you say?
It is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We have the changes that come with each season, we have the cultural influences that come with being close to New York, and we have a lot of people here who support the arts and local businesses.

 

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