What started out as a raw organic honey business is now garnering international recognition for its honey-infused gin.
Caledonia Spirits, a hive-and-spirits operation in Hardwick, won the 2013 Gin of the Year award and a gold medal for its Bar Hill Gin at the sixth annual Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Competition last month. The awards came as a surprise — the distillery hadn't even entered the competition.
The business was also named Distillery of the Year at the 2012 New York International Spirits Competition.
VPR’s Ric Cengeri visited with Head Distiller Ryan Christiansen to learn about the products Caledonia is making.
"It's pretty uncommon to have honey in gin," Christiansen says. "The base is a corn...but it's back-sweetened after the distillation process.
"In effect the honey is very much a complex flavor. With raw honey, it's very citrusy, it's very fruity sometimes, and it's constantly changing flavor. So we don't really get this product consistency that a lot of consumers expect and demand, but I think our consumers have grown to love that."
Caledonia is currently distilling its Bar Hill Gin, Bar Hill Vodka and an Elderberry Cordial. In development are an Elder Flower Liqueur and a barrel-aged gin called Tomcat Gin.
"We're making corn whiskey, we're making a bourbon, we're making a rye," Christiansen says. "And a couple other R&D projects that are a little far off to mention."
"This is like my dream job," says Christiansen says. "I owned a home brew store, which is essentially just one big, long R&D project. I never stayed with the same recipe. I constantly evolved, and when it came out good, I essentially filed it away. And now I'm kind of doing that whole process over again in a little more organized manner. And once you find that home run, you have to figure out how to get that into production."