four different sizes of bottled maple syrup

Spirit Seeker’s Guide: Uncovering the Best Distilleries Near Waterbury

Joining the ranks of the well-established and much-lauded breweries and cideries in our area, several distilleries in and around Waterbury have been crafting small-batch Vermont spirits for the last two decades. They each have unique takes on classics like vodka, bourbon, and gin, along with specialty liqueurs made from maple syrup, all distilled on-site and available to try fresh out of the still while getting helpful tasting info from their knowledgeable staff.

Our Waterbury bed and breakfast is conveniently located near these three tasting rooms – one is just a 5-minute drive away, while the other two are less than 25 minutes away – so plan your visit to these exceptional distilleries and discover your new favorite Vermont spirits.

a small group of people by the bar

Smugglers’ Notch Distillery

A charming story with humble roots, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery began as a father-and-son project in 2006, inspired by son Jeremy’s desire to make a living close to home. It wasn’t long before the Elliott family began winning awards for their vodka and gin, enabling them to expand to four Vermont locations over the last decade. Their first big hit was their vodka, made with sweet corn and winter wheat and filtered through particulate rather than charcoal, imbuing it with a cleaner profile. Their gin has also won awards from USA Today and Wine Enthusiast over the years, with three gin varieties available (classic, maple, and hopped). Their extensive selection also includes two types of bourbon (straight and maple) and rye. They all have a special ingredient – Vermont spring water – which gives them a uniquely “Vermont” flavor and makes them notably smooth and clean on the palate.

At the Smuggler’s Notch Barrel House tasting room, just a 5-minute drive north on Route 100 from downtown Waterbury, you can sample their line of Vermont spirits and shop for take-home goodies in their store. They are open Mon-Fri, 10 am – 5 pm, so it’s easy to plan your visit around other activities during your stay. Be sure to try their “tipsy pickles” and pick up a bottle of their maple cream liqueur – pair it with premium hot chocolate, which you can pick up across the parking lot at one of our local favorites, the Champlain Chocolate Store. Continue your Vermont Vermont tasting experience next door to the tasting room at the Cabot Creamery Store, where you can sample a variety of Cabot cheeses and other Vermont products, and don’t forget to stop at Ben and Jerry’s for a scoop of ice cream on the way back to The Old Stagecoach Inn – it’s right on the way just off Route 100, and what better way to follow up a memorable spirit-tasting than a scoop of Vermont’s best ice cream?

Barr Hill by Caledonia Smith

You’re unlikely to find a more idyllic tasting room or tasting experience than that of Barr Hill. Their distillery sits right on the Winooski River in the heart of Montpelier, our state’s capital, just a 20-minute drive from Waterbury. Post up at one of their outdoor tables near the river during the summer or cozy up to the indoor bar during the wintry months. Their story and distilling style is unique, formed by a tight bond between a beekeeper and distiller who made their first 15-barrel batch of liquor in 2011. 

Bringing beekeeping expertise, they have used fresh, raw honey in their naturally gluten-free gin and vodka since the beginning, adding a nuanced, natural flavor and smoothness. Their gin brings extra complexity with its locally-grown botanicals and hand-crushed juniper –  after tasting their Consumers’ Choice Award-winning Barr Hill gin or Tom Cat gin (aged in oak barrels), you’ll wonder how you ever drank standard-issue gin in the past.

After a day of mountain biking on the trails near Waterbury, stop in for a vodka and gin tasting flight, sample from their 10+ specialty cocktails (the “Bee’s Knees” is a favorite), and order delicious tapas plates like spiced nuts, citrus-marinated olives, and crispy pork belly, which pair perfectly with their outstanding Vermont spirits. Check their events calendar for special happenings during your visit, like cocktail-making classes and a Halloween party on 10/28/23. In addition to the costumed fun, the party benefits local flood recovery, of which Barr Hill has been a huge supporter since the devastating floods in July of 2023.

pouring a shot of the spirit of green mountain

Green Mountain Distillers

Of all the local distilleries, Green Mountain Distillers has been at it the longest, mixing up their first small-batch spirit in 2002. Staying true to their belief that outstanding liquor always starts with excellent ingredients, founders and owners Tim and Howie source all their organic grains from local farm cooperatives. They create their line of vodkas (including eight varieties, like vanilla, orange, blueberry, and ginger), two gins (citrus and black), and a maple liqueur at their rootsy barn distillery in Morrisville, a 25-minute drive north on Route 100 from downtown Waterbury. (And while you’re in the area, why not stop in for some cider tasting in Stowe on the way back?)

Two of Green Mountain’s most unique spirits are the overproof vodka, which clocks in at 161 proof and can be used for tinctures or making a cocktail that packs a huge punch, and the limited-edition maple liqueur, which comes in a numbered and signed bottle and has a flavor that matures over time. In addition to using the same not-so-secret ingredient as other local distillers – the freshest high-elevation Vermont spring water – Green Mountain also distills six times throughout their process, showing a longstanding dedication to producing some of the finest-tasting Vermont spirits.

Stay with us, where world-class distilleries produce Vermont spirits as pure and crisp as the Green Mountain air!