On a recent Fall day a few of the Table & Vine staff took a drive, departing from the Flagship Table & Vine in West Springfield, it took us a little over an hour to get to the Berkshire Mountain Distillers (BMD) in Sheffield, MA, pretty close to the south-west corner of the Commonwealth.
Founded in 2007 by Chris Weld, his original idea was to produce Apple Brandy, similar to French Calvados from apples grown right on his own farm. He was honest with us that he struggled to achieve the quality he wanted. There are a lot of factors that go into anything great, and his apples were more of the eating type and not the Cider or Calvados type. Stay tuned on that, as he has planted many of the right type over the past few years…his idea may come to fruition eventually. Now, BMD produces five spirits as a constant, Berkshire Bourbon, Greylock Gin, Ice Glen Vodka, Ragged Mountain Rum and New England Corn Whiskey. They also produce other unique items, like their exciting Craft Brewers Whiskey project, more on that later. The team at BMD is using mostly local ingredients for their work, as they call it, “farm to glass.”
During our visit a few things became apparent. To quote Michael Brunelle, “BMD and Big Y are aligned along a similar ethical compass – being good partners within their communities. Supporting their local farmers, whether it be for corn that ends up in our stores or corn that ends up in their bottles is vitally important.” We have proudly sold BMD products for many years, but we recently have partnered with them on a few special projects and have begun distributing to our stores through the Fresh and Local Distribution Center.
BMD Garden Gin
When you make a pot of coffee the first part that comes out is when the grounds are freshest and so that is the most concentrated part of the pot, and then it get more dilute as the water finishes. Well its similar in distilling, the first part, which is called the heads is usually more floral and bright with the botanicals shining, but so does the alcohol, the end is called the tails and these parts tend to be more earthy and heavy. The middle portion is the heart and indeed that is the heart of the eventually bottled finished product, the distillers art is trying to figure which parts and how much of the heads and tail to add to make the final product taste the way they want it to. To be fair we tasted this is in parts, it was being distilled right before our eyes that day. We tasted 3 different parts of the heads and two tails. It was fascinating learning about that and hearing Chris and his team talk about what the contributions of each part could be to their Garden Gin.
This is a thrilling project, the Garden Gin is made of course from the pristine water that springs up right on the property, the alcohol is distilled corn and wheat from just 2 miles away, and the flavoring botanicals are grown in the garden right outside the door of the distillery. When you talk about local this is really it! Local ingredients, local people making it, and your local Table & Vine/Big Y selling it!
BMD Spencer Trappist Ale American Whiskey
Part of the Craft Brewers Whiskey Project. Many years ago Chris began purchasing large lots of beer from many favorite New England breweries and distilling them into whiskey. They then age for five years and are ready to be sold. He had the foresight to buy a really large amount of Spencer Trappist Ale and didn’t bottle it all, leaving six barrels in his rickhouse for extended barrel aging. During our visit he offered us the chance to taste them and select one barrel to be bottled exclusively for Table & Vine/Big Y. We of course tasted and picked one that Michael Brunelle and I agreed was our favorite, distilled at the end of 2015 its just about seven years of aging. Our first taste was at full barrel strength, which is about 125 proof, the bottled product will be diluted to a more palatable level of approximately 86 proof.
My tasting note- mineral pushing towards granite, malt, strong caramel makes it very inviting, brigt and floral on the palate, adding a drop of water makes it explode, more malt and classic American whiskey flavors leaping from the glass.
BMD/Table & Vine 4-year aged Bourbon
This specific Bourbon was done just for Table & Vine, and aged in a Vermont Oak barrel that came to us from Whistlepig Distillery in Vermont when we bought a single barrel of Whistlepig 15-year aged Rye Whiskey. The vessel held the Rye for 15 years and then this Bourbon for 4 years. Knowing this was aging at BMD for us I was keen to try the Bourbon and find out when it would be bottled for us. Chris mentioned before we tried it that he felt it was ready to go, and since he is the expert we felt that we were going to taste the finished product. Yes, its coming soon!!
My tasting note- gorgeous nose showing classic vanilla and caramel, but with an assertive Rye spiciness. On the palate the Rye turned to toasted nuts and more caramel with a hint of fig. This is a great Bourbon.
Thanks very much to Chris Weld and his team for the generous welcome, tour and tasting we received, building our network was important to our mutual success. This partnership will be great for all involved!