Litchfield Distillery

Visit #18, February 27, 2016LITCHFIELD XXVIII

Daffodils.  Farms.  Colonial buildings with white paint and black shutters. These are the memories I have of Litchfield, CT, when visiting here a few times with my mother on Mother’s Day to shop for plants at White Flower Farm. But bourbon?  Aged whiskey?  It turns out that Litchfield is now home to a new operation of distilling and aging some increasingly popular spirits!  As Connecticut’s distillery boom begins, the Litchfield Distillery is leading the way  by embracing a well-followed script of blending the old with the new and giving the public a nice tour and taste in the process.

Started by the Baker brothers in 2013, the Litchfield Distillery is using the knowledge and business savvy that the brothers acquired from owning a century-old water company, Crystal Rock.  This third-generation business has helped the Baker brothers take the natural leap into the distilling world.  Added to the mix is the head distiller James McCoy whose background includes time at Harpoon Brewery and a distilling degree from Scotland.

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Our tour was led by David Baker.  He provided the large group on the tour with a great experience filled with lots of information and explanation.  Here are some notes from the tour:

  • Distillation happens 4 days a week, they have been distilling for 14 months and have been in the building for 2 years
  • 95% of grain is from Connecticut, 800 lbs of grain a day of corn and rye
  • Hammer mill is used for grinding grain to be sent to mash tun
  • Mashing takes 1 hour before wash is placed in 5 fermentation tanks, each holding up to 2,000 liters, heated with steam jackets
  • 12 hours for the yeast to become active, 5-7 days of fermentation
  • City water is used for cooling, bottled water from Crystal Rock is used for distilling
  • Hybrid pot to column still made by Mueller in Germany, 500 liters
  • Still runs: 1/2 hour heads, 1 hour 45 minutes hearts, tails the rest
  • For bourbon distilling, 3 plates closed in column still
  • 100 gallon gin still made by Trident Stills in Maine
  • For gin distilling, all 7 plates closed in column still and 24 hours to extract flavors of ingredients
  • Current aged bourbon is a little over a year old
  • Barrels made in Kentucky, Minnesota and Long Island
  • Different char levels used, #4 (alligator char) and #3
  • 4 barrels/week are filled, 1 for shorter-term use and 3 for longer-term use
  • 600-800 bottles/batch, done once a week, bottler takes 30 seconds per fill
  • Bottles are made in the USA

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Mash bill of bourbon and gin

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Mash Tank

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Fermentation Tanks
Fermentation Tanks

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Different char levels
Different char levels

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The tour experience was very well done as the entire process was explained.  It was followed by a tasting provided in a beautifully-decorated tasting area which also serves as a gift shop and tiny museum.  Here is what we tasted:

  • Bourbon Whiskey – charred in #4 barrels, mash bill is 70% corn, 20% rye and 10% barley, 1 year-old, 43% ABV
  • Double Barreled Bourbon Whiskey – 250 barrels of 6-year old bourbon was purchased from a Kentucky distillery, now at 8 years of age, it is re-barreled with 3-year old bourbon, 44% ABV
  • Gin – this was a nice gin that could be used for cocktails, 43% ABV
  • We also got to try a new cask-finished bourbon that will be coming out soon, but we agreed not to mention what type of cask or process, but it was very nice at 100 proof

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Charles’ Notes:  It was nice traveling to Litchfield and seeing how well this distillery is doing.  Both the brothers David and Jack were extremely accommodating and it always says something when the owners are there presenting to guests and showing their passion for what they do.  The tour was well executed and it was obvious that the group enjoyed themselves.  I do look forward to making another visit in the next year or so to see what is next available.  They are very progressive in their thinking of cask-finishes and this could be a great benefit for their bourbons.  As Connecticut distilleries continue to ramp up, I am sure Litchfield will be leading the way.LITCHFIELD XXVI

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