Distillers: Made in Vermont label not always accurate

Local spirit makers seek to support farms

Elaine Ezerins

By Elaine Ezerins

Staff Writer

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‘The opportunity for farmers to create a profitable and high end beverage alcohol made from only pure Vermont maple appears limitless at the moment.’

- David Howe

FAIRFIELD — David and Lisa Howe, the owners of Elm Brook Farm, produce maple based distilled spirits, conducting the entire operation, from collecting the sap to aging and bottling the alcohol, on their farm in Fairfield.

The challenge they face, being a small farm-to-glass distillery, is with marketing their products because the ‘Made in Vermont’ label can mean all sorts of things in the distilling industry, according to the Howes.

According to David, many distilleries in Vermont buy alcohol from out of state, because it is typically less expensive than producing in-house. And under Vermont law, these distilleries can label their alcohol as a Vermont product, if it is bottled, blended or flavor is added in Vermont, he said.

He said this poses a challenge for small artisan distilleries, which use local ingredients and do the entire production in Vermont, because there isn’t a distinction between the two.

“The hurdles for us trying to differentiate ourselves is overcoming what people think is local,” said Lisa.

“It’s not transparent to the consumer where the alcohol is derived from,” she said, which in many instances is out of state. “What people think is local is not actually local.”

“More and more people are looking for farm to table or what we call farm to flask,” said Lisa, “[and] you want it to be authentic, you want it to be artisan, but you have major manufacturers that just infiltrate that market and [the distilleries] slap a label on it and say it’s locally made and it’s really not.”

This makes the playing field uneven because the small artisan distilleries can’t compete with the major manufacturers when it comes to the cost of production, according to David.

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