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Spirits Arise

Small-batch distilleries resurrect an old craft



Jack Baker, owner of Litchfield Distillery, recently celebrated the production of its 500th barrel of Batchers Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

At nearly every point in history, alcoholic beverages played a role in civilizations across the globe. Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian cultures have documented evidence of fermented and distilled beverages as early as 800 BCE, made from ingredients like honey, rice, and fruits. Fast forward to 18th-century Britain, when parliament began incentivizing distillers to use grains to create their spirits, and inexpensive gin flooded the market. After attitudes and laws pertaining to alcohol consumption swung back and forth over the next 300 years, today, distilling is a $150-billion industry in the United States, and accounts for nearly a third of all alcoholic beverage sales. Here in Connecticut, two small-batch distilleries are doing their part to bring back the craft.

Bridgeport’s Asylum Distillery is the first of its kind to open in Fairfield County since prohibition. Co-owned by Southporters Robert and Bridget Schulten and Neil Doocy, they chose the Park City for its history of manufacturing, an abundance of available, affordable warehouse space, and the convenient location. Their “grain-to-bottle” process uses Connecticut-grown, non-GMO corn as the basis for small-batch whiskey, vodka, and an award-winning gin. “We wanted to go in with some sort of intention. Local ingredients add so much value to the product,” says Doocy. “The local concept really differentiates us from other distilleries.” Together, the trio is creating products that focus on flavor, resulting in “sippable” spirits. 

There are two whiskeys currently in production, an unaged corn whiskey and “Fifth State” aged corn whiskey. The robust corn flavor is evident in both varieties, one clear, one oakey brown. “People have expectations of whiskey being dark, but it doesn’t have to be,” explains Robert Schulten, who also serves as master distiller. Always looking to the future, a Connecticut maple syrup-infused whiskey is currently in production and will be released this fall.

In its first year of production, Asylum’s gin was named the American Distilling Institute Craft Spirit silver-medal winner, for its bold, modern taste. It is vapor-infused with six botanicals giving it a strong but smooth flavor that holds up to mixers, but is also great straight. “All the bitterness is distilled out,” explains Schulten. “It has ‘happy flavor’ tastes!” The vodka is also corn-based, which makes it smoother than other vodkas. “It doesn’t burn and has a good ‘mouth feel’,” he says.

When brothers Jack, David, and Peter Baker launched Litchfield Distillery, it began as a side project. As the family behind Crystal Rock bottled water, the brothers started by batching two bourbons and one gin. Three years later, there are six bourbons, two gins, and three vodkas in their profile. “Craft distilleries can pay attention to a hundred more details than a huge distiller,” explains Jack. “We are passionate about it and are quality focused.”

Bourbon, which by law is aged in charred barrels that can only be used once, is a time-consuming process, but is at the heart of the Litchfield Distillery. Patience paid off when the original Batchers’ bourbon whiskey took home the silver medal at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Characterized by a 70 percent corn, 25 percent rye, and five percent barley mash, the two-step barreling process spends two to eight years in white oak casks. Other bourbons created by the micro-distillery include a double-barreled bourbon, ten-year cask-strength bourbon, and a Port cask infused bourbon. Newer to the line is vanilla Bourbon, which uses a whole vanilla bean in every bottle, and coffee Bourbon, which is believed to be the only one of its kind in the country. “I always enjoyed bourbon in my coffee,” Jack Baker says. “We decided to marry the two, using a Windsor, Connecticut-based coffee roaster. We’re getting great consumer reviews.” 

In addition to bourbon is the small-batch gin, also a silver-medal winner at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The martini-grade gin is slightly on the sweet side but has a classic juniper flavor with citrus overtones. They recently introduced a barrel-finished gin as well, using their retired whiskey barrels which give it a subtle Bourbon taste and a slightly caramel color. Initially, the Bakers were not planning to make vodka, but after many requests, they added a100-percent corn vodka to the mix. Seasonal flavored vodkas use locally harvested fruits including apples and blueberries. “We are there all day long, watching and tasting,” says Baker. Visitors can do the same, by visiting the distillery’s tasting room, which is nestled in the hills of Litchfield.

Distilling has a long history in America, and after years of market domination by large-scale manufacturers, small-batch producers are having a renaissance. The number of Distilled Spirits Permits issued in the US has skyrocketed and currently there are about 1,000 craft distilleries operating nationally. Experts predict this number will double in the next five years, nipping at the heels of the craft-beer industry. 


That’s the Spirit! 
In Roxbury, Mine Hill Distillery is slated to open this fall. The distillery recently won the 2017 Historic Preservation Award for the state. They are now finalizing the details in order to hold events on the property in the newly restored Roxbury Station. This fall they plan to start the distillery process which will produce premium spirits. Stay tuned.

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July 2018

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Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
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Sponsor: Landmark Community Theatre
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
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Cost: $37-$42

Where:
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Where:
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Where:
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44 Upland Rd
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View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
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More information

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Cost: $250

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
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View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
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More information

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Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farn
Telephone: 860-355-0300
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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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Oliver Wolcott Library
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

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The Litchfield Historical Society is celebrating the middle of summer vacation with a week of FREE afternoon crafts and games for families at the Tapping Reeve Meadow....

Cost: Free!

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Litchfield Historical Society
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Cost: $37-$42

Where:
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View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
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Cost: $175

Where:
Landmark Community Theatre Production Center
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View map »


Sponsor: Landmark Community Theatre
Telephone: 860-283-8558
Contact Name: Andrea Bingham
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More information

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Cost: $300

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
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View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

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Cost: $250

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
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View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
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Cost: $100

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farn
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

Join in the fun this summer as we challenge you to OWL Reads! Challenge yourself to read six to nine books this summer! How to participate? Beginning June 20th come to OWL to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

Jennifer paints with vibrant hues in multiple layers, capturing her exuberance and fascination with color and texture. She has developed her own style through many years of experimentation,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

The Litchfield Historical Society is celebrating the middle of summer vacation with a week of FREE afternoon crafts and games for families at the Tapping Reeve Meadow....

Cost: Free!

Where:
Tapping Reeve Meadow
82 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Litchfield Historical Society
Website »

More information

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Where:
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44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
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More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
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Landmark Community Theatre will be extending it’s Youth Theatre Education program this July with a summer camp intensive focusing on Acting, Dance, and Voice. The camp...

Cost: $175

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Landmark Community Theatre
Telephone: 860-283-8558
Contact Name: Andrea Bingham
Website »

More information

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Cost: $300

Where:
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44 Upland Rd
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View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

Today it is more important than ever to teach our children where their food comes from and why that is important. During this 5-day cooking series, the students will learn those...

Cost: $250

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
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View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

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View map »


Sponsor: Ives Concert Park and Promotions in Motion
Telephone: 203-837-9227
Contact Name: Phyllis Cortese
Website »

More information

Summer Concert Series Package includes 4 concerts that will be shown all at Hunt Hill Farm. All concerts start at 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM on the dates below with artist information. For more...

Cost: $100

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farn
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

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Cost: Tickets: $60 – $20, $10 (Young Adults 18-25), and Kids under 18 Free!

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View map »


Telephone: 860-542-3000
Website »

More information

Join in the fun this summer as we challenge you to OWL Reads! Challenge yourself to read six to nine books this summer! How to participate? Beginning June 20th come to OWL to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

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Where:
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Website »

More information

Jennifer paints with vibrant hues in multiple layers, capturing her exuberance and fascination with color and texture. She has developed her own style through many years of experimentation,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

The Litchfield Historical Society is celebrating the middle of summer vacation with a week of FREE afternoon crafts and games for families at the Tapping Reeve Meadow....

Cost: Free!

Where:
Tapping Reeve Meadow
82 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Litchfield Historical Society
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Landmark Community Theatre will be extending it’s Youth Theatre Education program this July with a summer camp intensive focusing on Acting, Dance, and Voice. The camp...

Cost: $175

Where:
Landmark Community Theatre Production Center
9 Center St.
Thomaston, CT  06787
View map »


Sponsor: Landmark Community Theatre
Telephone: 860-283-8558
Contact Name: Andrea Bingham
Website »

More information

A workshop leading to the creation of a floral piece in the Free Style Arrangement of the Sogestsu School of Ikebana. This includes sketching of the arrangement,  an understanding for the...

Cost: $99/$114

Where:
Wisdom House
229 East Litchfield Rd
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Wisdom House
Telephone: 860-567-3163
Contact Name: Bonnie Mis
Website »

More information

A workshop leading to the creation of a floral piece in the Free Style Arrangement of the Sogestsu School of Ikebana. This includes sketching of the arrangement,  an understanding for the...

Cost: $99/$114

Where:
Wisdom House
229 East Litchfield Rd
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Wisdom House
Telephone: 860-567-3163
Contact Name: Bonnie Mis
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Papermoon Performing Arts Studio
49 Commons Drive
Next to WZBG Radio
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Papermoon Performing Arts
Telephone: 203-707-8428
Contact Name: Danielle Eichman
Website »

More information

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Cost: Tickets $20 in advance, $30 at the door.

Where:
Ives Concert Park
43 Lake Ave Ext
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »


Sponsor: Ives Concert Park and Promotions in Motion
Telephone: 203-837-9227
Contact Name: Phyllis Cortese
Website »

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Summer Concert Series Package includes 4 concerts that will be shown all at Hunt Hill Farm. All concerts start at 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM on the dates below with artist information. For more...

Cost: $100

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
New Milford, CT  06776
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Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farn
Telephone: 860-355-0300
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Join in the fun this summer as we challenge you to OWL Reads! Challenge yourself to read six to nine books this summer! How to participate? Beginning June 20th come to OWL to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
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Jennifer paints with vibrant hues in multiple layers, capturing her exuberance and fascination with color and texture. She has developed her own style through many years of experimentation,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
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The Farm-Fresh Market was created in 2007 with 15 local vendors, and has grown over the years to become a staple of the Litchfield Hills community throughout all seasons. We were so proud to be...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Center School Parking Lot
Woodruff Lane
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Telephone: 860-567-3871
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Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
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