Smuggler's Notch Distillery: Vermont's First Private Distillery Storefront
Champlain Business Journal March, 2011
JEFFERSONVILLE - Smugglers’ Notch Distillery Smugglers’ Notch draws its name from the days of Prohibition, when smugglers discovered a mountain route–the notch–to transport alcohol from Canada to “dry” Vermont. Ironically, with the passing of a state bill just last May, the recently opened Smugglers’ Notch Distillery in Jeffersonville becomes the state’s first private outlet to offer samples of its vodka, as well as liquor-tasting events.
Photo courtesy of Smugglers' Notch Distillery
“Yes, we are the first distillery in the state that gives tastings and sells bottles from our storefront,” co-owner Jeremy Elliot said. The distillery has actually been five years in the making, essentially biginning after the owner’s New York City-based employer began outsourcing its research-and-development work.
It also possesses a “scientific” approach in its creation, said Elliot: its creator is a professional chemist. Smugglers’ Notch Distillery is owned and operated by the father-and-son partnership of Ron and Jeremy Elliot. Ron Elliot is a retired business executive, and Jeremy Elliot is a chemist in the pharmaceutical industry.
The distillery and storefront is located on Main Street in Jeffersonville, the home of the pass through which smugglers transported liquor from Canada to the U.S., not only during Prohibition in the 1920s, but also during the 1807 Embargo Act.
“Several years ago, I was faced with a tough decision,” Jeremy Elliot said. “I was going to lose my job at R&D Chemist to a large pharmaceutical company in upstate New York because my job was being sent overseas. At that moment, I thought of several ideas that could incorporate my chemistry skills with my desire to start a business, and ultimately settled on starting a distillery.”
Although Jeremy Elliot wasn’t necessarily enthralled in the beginning, the University of Vermont graduate said he realized that developing vodka would utilize his skills while he was in search of new employment. “My father and I started this business, and it took that long(five years)before we sold our first bottle,” Elliot said.
“The largest obstacle we had to overcome was regulatory permits. We had to obtain a distilled-spirits permit from the federal government, and a manufacturer’s license from the state government. During this process, every facet of the business, as well as your personal being is scrutinized. This process took the longest time.”
The vodka is created from sweet corn and winter wheat from Idaho, which gives the alcohol a certain bite the Elliots were striving for. The concoction is diluted with water taken from a Jeffersonville source Elliot simply describes as “Big Spring.” A few Jefferson-area restaurants are now carrying Smuggler’s Notch vodka, including the Village Tavern at Smuggler’s Notch and The Family Table.
“Currently, you can find our vodka at various Vermont liquor outlets and of course, at our own retail store in Jeffersonville,” Elliot said. “As demand grows, we will be found outside Vermont in neighboring states, but right now we are concentrating on Vermont, our home state. “It is great to have a business partnership with my father and together, we are making our dream of having our own business come true.”
They plan to begin working on other recipes as well. “The next products currently being worked on include white rum, a dark rum and gin,” he said. “We anticipate these being ready within eight months.” And with a little time, the Elliots said they hope that spirits aficionados will be able to enjoy a wide array of liquors at their storefront.
Smugglers’ Notch Distillery, LLC is located at 276 Main Street, Jeffersonville, VT. 05464. The telephone number is 802.309.3077. The hours are 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment. The Web site is www.smugglersnotchdistillery.com .