A Distillery at Cold Spring Farm, Vermont

In 2011, Maura Connolly was contemplating planting a vineyard on the farm. Vermont is an unforgiving climate for grapes and her friends suggested that it would be better to produce something from more indigenous fruit. Maura’s husband John is a life-long fan of apple brandy and he was intrigued enough to start researching its production. The couple’s friend Brett Little shared John’s appreciation for brandy, and he immediately partnered with them and the idea of starting a distillery at Cold Spring Farm was born. The Warren property dates from the mid-1800s and was converted into a horse farm in the mid-1900’s. Alex Hilton, a Warren native, renovated the dilapidated old horse barn into a state-of- the-art craft distillery in 2011. Along the way, he became interested enough in the project to sign on as the General Manager of Mad River Distillers.  After finishing the renovations, obtaining our permits and firing up our still, we produced our first spirit- Mad River First Run Rum- in May 2013.  We have produced over a half dozen different craft spirits since then, including Mad River Malvados, our flagship “Wicked Vermont Apple Brandy.”  

Spirits with a sense of place.

When we started Mad River Distillers, we knew we wanted to make our own artisanal spirits from scratch, but we never imagined where that simple vision would take us. We selected a craft Mueller still from Germany that was designed to make brandies, rums and whiskies. We decided early on to make spirits with distinct character. Through our desire to use local and non-GMO grains and fruits whenever possible, we have come to know many great local family-owned farms and producers of wonderful heirloom corn, rye, apples and other grains. Our vision of farm-to-glass is to collaborate with these producers to bring the fruit of their labor to market in the form of our handcrafted spirits.  And while there is no sugar cane in Vermont, the sugar in our rums is fair-trade certified from sustainable sources. We carefully mash and ferment each batch to ensure the best flavor and nose for our spirits. Our Mueller still allows us to capture only the hearts of each run.  Our processes incorporate all of our research about the best temperatures for cooking different grains and the most flavorful yeasts to the best methods for fermenting different fruits, grains and sugar. We focus a lot of attention on two very critical elements for any spirit; wood and water.  Our fermenting water comes right from our farm’s 150-year old natural spring.  We work with a select number of family-owned cooperages to provide us with the right barrels. We have learned the characteristics of the different woods- from tight northern grains to lusher softer southern grains- and we have come to blend our spirits from different barrels and also move to larger format barrels that yield more complex and nuanced notes in our spirits.  We also source unique seasoned barrels to provide depth and variety to our spirits. We hope you enjoy our spirits and we want nothing more than to see them on a bar or shelf near you!