Smugglers' Notch Distillery's whiskey lineup has something for just about any whiskey lover…wheat, rye, and straight bourbon whiskey.
These tasting rooms are in Waterbury, VT (just down the street from Ben & Jerry’s, as I mentioned before), at the foot of the mountains leading to the famed ski resorts of Stowe and Smugglers’ Notch.
Opened in 2010 by a father & son team, Smugglers' Notch's name comes from the historical route used first in the early 19th century (and later during Prohibition) to smuggle illegal and/or embargoed goods between Canada and the US. Had there been more time (and the weather cooperated, which it hadn’t), I would have loved to explore the regions’ trails and caves.
However, this isn’t a travel blog, so let’s stick to whiskey (hear, hear!).
Smuggler's Notch Distillery
Like the Hidden Marsh Distillery, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery produces a wide array of spirits including vodka, gin, and rum, but it was the whiskey that I was interested in.
There are several styles in the lineup: wheated whiskey, rye, and straight bourbon whiskey, all proofed with Vermont spring water.
Also, all the spirits are made, barrel aged, blended, and bottled on site, and in a unique Vermont twist, they even tie the state’s maple syrup tradition into a special bottling.
Smugglers’ Notch Distillery Whiskey Tasting
At Smuggler’s Notch Distillery Barrel House Tasting Room, July 22, 2019
Smugglers’ Notch Litigation Wheat Whiskey
- Nose: caramel, honey, soft nutmeg
- Taste: caramel, dark brown sugar, vanilla fudge
- Finish: sweet vanilla fudge and cinnamon fade slowly and pleasantly
- Comments: a good hit of sweetness balanced by light baking spices; quite good
Smugglers’ Notch Rye Whiskey
- Nose: light dill pickles, peaches, vanilla, pineapple hides in the background
- Taste: tamed rye started with a nutty sweetness, orchard berries kicked in with cinnamon and cloves
- Finish: the cloves and berries linger long and strong
- Comments: well tamed rye...sweet with a spicy undertone
Smugglers’ Notch Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Nose: caramel corn, vanilla, white chocolate
- Taste: soft vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg rises slowly
- Finish: the soft baking spices fades slowly with white chocolate and brown sugar
- Comments: not aggressive at all, very approachable
Smuggler’s Notch Maple Bourbon Whiskey
- Nose: very light nose, bourbon nose subdued, hard to detect, faint caramel corn nose
- Taste: bourbon flavors tamped down, some baking spices rise up with caramel corn, very faint maple
- Finish: sweet flavors linger with baking spices underneath
- Comments: the bourbon is muted, and the maple is very light; water, released more maple flavor
Getting to Maple
Just as I was leaving the tasting room, I was introduced to Jeremy Elliott, one of the founders of Smugglers’ Notch (the “son” in the father/son team). He graciously answered my questions regarding how the Maple Bourbon Whiskey was made…one of their ex-bourbon barrels was filled with their organic maple syrup which then sat for 6-12 months.
After the barrel was emptied of the syrup, it was filled the same day with Straight Bourbon Whiskey then aged for up to 2 years. The whole idea was to round out the Straight Bourbon Whiskey with a hint of maple.
Smugglers’ Notch Distillery whiskey is well-worth seeking out. I’ll look for it locally of course, but there’s always the possibility of heading back to Vermont…after all, those mountains are calling!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!