Cheers to the art of whiskey crafting

Nicole LeBlond of Shelburne offering whisky samples at the Mad River Distillers booth at Shelburne Farmers Market on June 20.
Nicole LeBlond of Shelburne offering whisky samples at the Mad River Distillers booth at Shelburne Farmers Market on June 20. Photo by Lynn Monty / Wind Ridge Publishing

Maple Rum and Rye Whiskey shimmered in clear glass bottles in the morning sun as Nicole LeBlond of Shelburne handed out samples from her Mad River Distillers booth at Shelburne Farmers Market Saturday.

Bill Harrison of South Burlington was there with his son Ben, 11, who was a little young to sample the products, but asked his dad what it tasted like.

“It’s very good with a real spicy note,” he said of the Rye. “Good for such a young whisky. It’s hard to get good aged whiskeys in a boutique distillery like this.”

Mad River Distillers, founded in 2011, is located in Warren. Their Malvados is a popular and “wicked” Vermont apple brandy, LeBlond said as she handed Harrison another sample.

Maple Rum is their best seller. Maple syrup producers in the region take rum barrels from the distillery and use them to produce rum-infused maple syrup, and then give back the barrels which are then used to age Mad River Distillers Maple Rum. “It’s a great synergy we have going with them,” LeBlond said.

Bennett Dee of Burlington also manned the booth. “Whiskey crafting is an art,” he said. “We take all natural Vermont grains and turn them into a handmade finished product. We produce hand-bottled batches of flavored rum and whiskey.”

Dee said he also had to learn the art of moderation on the job. About five runs come off the still daily, yielding about 10 to 20 liters each. “You have to sample to know when to harvest the product,” he said. “So it will be 9am and I’m tasting 100-proof booze. You learn to pace yourself.”