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We've Got Spirits, Yes We Do
To say Maine’s craft distilling has expanded recently is one heck of an understatement. Craft spirits are bubbling up all across the state. Maine’s craft-spirit makers are brimming with energy and creativity. They celebrate the classics – whiskey, gin, rum and vodka – while gleefully experimenting with new tastes of their own. Today, Maine makers brew up spirits from maple, from carrot juice, from beer.
Here are just are few of Maine’s spirit makers, all members of the Maine Distillers Guild.
Wiggly Bridge Distillery, with two locations in York, was started by a father and son who, at a family dinner, jokingly said they should make their own whiskey. Now they do – in the distillery they built, complete with hand-made stills. The team creates not just whiskey (white whiskey and bourbon) but rum, vodka, gin and agave. Stop by for a tour.
Maine Craft Distilling in Portland and Freeport, creates a full shelf of spirts including ‘Fifty Stone,’ a Highlands-style whiskey and several varieties of rum, vodka and gin. They also branched out into unique spirits including ‘Blueshine’ blueberry moonshine, made with barley, wild Maine blueberries and Maine maple syrup, and ‘Chesuncook Botanical Spirit,’ distilled from carrot juice, mountain juniper, basil, mint, and coriander. Try out its offerings at its downtown pub, which hosts music and events.
Ned Wight comes to rye whiskey honestly. His family started distilling the stuff in Maryland more than 150 years ago. Today, Wight’s New England Distilling in Portland makes the award-winning ‘Gunpowder Rye Whiskey.’ In addition, they offer their own take on gin, bourbon and rum along with their own ‘Rack IV Saison Whiskey,’ created with Allagash Brewery’s ale. They offer distillery tours and a tasting room.
Liquid Riot Bottling Company, brews beer and distills spirits in Portland’s Old Port District. The folks love to innovate, producing classics like bourbon, single-malt whiskey and rye alongside two types of oat whiskey and ‘Bierschnaps’ - a high proof spirit made from beer. They offer up their creations from a restaurant and pub downtown.
Maine Distilleries in Freeport starts with potatoes, grown in Western Maine, which they distill in Freeport in a copper still with water from the Cold River. The distillery makes three types of Maine potato vodka – including the well-known ‘Cold River Vodka’ and another flavored with wild Maine blueberries – as well as a potato gin. Distillery tours are available.
Sebago Lake Distillery in Gardiner, bucks the trend of many Maine distilleries that make different types of spirits. The friends who started Sebago Lake are focusing first on rum. Working with small batches, they want to recapture Maine’s long history of rum-making. So far, they’ve created an original variety, a coffee-flavored rum, a dark rum and a barrel-aged rum. Call about tours.
Tree Spirits of Maine in Oakland makes fruit wines from apples and pears from Maine as well as from local maple syrup. From there, they moved on to distilling, creating spirits including ‘Knotted Maple’ from their maple wine (subtle like brandy but they can’t call it that) and the first craft Absinthe made in New England. Stop by their tasting room.
Bartlett Maine Estate Winery is a pioneering winemaker in Maine. From their headquarters in Gouldsboro, they’ve spent decades creating wines from Maine fruits such as blueberries, apples and pears. They’ve also expanded into spirits such as their pot-still creation, ‘Rusticator Rum.’ Visit their tasting room.
Thirsty for more? Check out the Maine Distillers Guild for additional information and a downloadable map of its member distilleries. Visit 10 Guild distilleries, get their stamps on your map, and win a t-shirt!