Gin business gets a boost

MIDDLEBURY — There’s a message on the door leading into the cavernous, 12,000-square-foot warehouse in which Stonecutter Spirits will someday be able to age up to 1,500 barrels of its carefully crafted gin and whiskey.
“Shhh… The spirits are sleeping,” the message reads.
Well, Stonecutter is now beginning to make some noise, in part thanks to a $100,000 loan from the Addison County Economic Development Corp. (ACEDC) that has allowed the Middlebury company to begin production. The $100,000 comes from an ACEDC revolving loan fund and is part of a $500,000 funding package from Opportunities Credit Union and the National Bank of Middlebury.
“We are delighted to be able to help a business like Stonecutter Spirits get started,” said ACEDC Executive Director Robin Scheu. “Our revolving loan funds were created just for this type of need. ACEDC invests in local businesses with the dual goals of creating or retaining good paying jobs in the county, and helping our businesses succeed and grow.”
Bridport couple Sivan Cotel and Sas Stewart launched Stonecutter last year. They have installed the company in a spot at 1197 Exchange St. formerly occupied by Questech. This past Thursday saw workers completing a wooden bar for the tasting room that will offer samples of the company’s gin and whiskey after it is done aging. An inaugural batch of gin — enough for around 600 bottles — is currently maturing in a handful of barrels in the warehouse, which is connected to a bottling/production area served by a loading dock from which cases of the potent potables will be spirited away to markets in Vermont and beyond.
Cotel explained the loans will help sustain the business during this period when Stonecutter is developing its product and building inventory. It’s a period during which companies aren’t yet earning revenues. At this point, Cotel and Stewart are the only employees at Stonecutter, but the new loans are expected to help the company create up to a dozen full-time jobs and bring on another six part-timers during the next three years. Those new positions will be in sales, marketing, administrative support and production.
“It’s a business where we age things,” Stewart said. “Having inventory and being able to do the production work we need to do is vital to our business. These loans are what make that happen.”
Stonecutter’s flagship products will be a single barrel gin and a small batch whiskey, aged to a light-amber hue and finished with “a new spin on traditional methods,” according to Cotel. The gin will be aged for six to 12 months in repurposed bourbon barrels that will impart additional character and flavor to the end product, the owners noted. The barrels will be sourced from whiskey distilleries throughout the country, primarily from Kentucky. A Vermont farm will grow the juniper berries and a distiller in southern Vermont will produce the base gin that will then be shaped by the Stonecutter recipe that Stewart and Cotel recently perfected after several months of experimentation. Stonecutter will host a special release of its product sometime this summer.
Cotel said the flavor of Stonecutter gin will include hints of juniper, orange peel and cardamom, rounded out by notes of various botanicals. The barrels themselves will also impart subtle vanilla and caramel flavors to the gin.
At the same time, the couple is doing some test batches of whiskey that will also be marketed under the Stonecutter brand.
“We know what we are interested in and are just fine tuning it right now,” Stewart said.
Cotel and Stewart are pleased that Stonecutter is located close to several other beverage companies, including Vermont Hard Cider, Otter Creek Brewing, Lincoln Peak Vineyard and the Appalachian Gap Distillery.
“Addison County is a growing hub of craft food and beverage production,” said Stewart. “We couldn’t be more excited to join the community of talented artisans and makers in this area.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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