Lessons in Whiskey at Litchfield Distillery
Despite living in Missouri at the time, I became familiar with Litchfield Distillery a few years ago from a time I was driving through Connecticut and visited Total Wine in Manchester. I always look for local items when I’m away from home and bought a bottle of Litchfield Distilleries 100 proof Port Cask finished Bourbon. I really enjoyed it, so when we moved to Connecticut, I was looking forward to a visit.
First checking out their website, I read that reservations needed to made in advance, but was able to make them just a few hours in advance, so I did that. I was very happy to learn they don’t charge for a tour and tasting. Since I didn’t look at any other options, I’m not sure if the tasting is available without the tour, but the tour is fun anyway. The distillery is right on Highway 202 in a big red building.
Pulling into the parking lot I notice at least half of the license plates on the cars are from New York or New Jersey. That’s a good sign, since I doubt that would be the case without some word of mouth spread that this is a good way to spend an hour.
I walked inside about 10-15 minutes before my scheduled tour, took a close look at their shelf of offerings and had a seat to wait my turn for the tour. Since I arrived early I got to hear the tasting for the previous group, while relaxing in a comfortable leather chair next to a warm stove. With the selection of magazines on the table, I could have sat and chilled there for a long time.
More people scheduled for the tour at the same time as I filed in, and our tour began just as the last tour was deciding what they wanted to go home with. We are immediately brought ‘behind the scenes’ by distillery partner David Baker to the sparklingly clean distillery with shiny brewing and distilling vessels (yes, one ‘brews’ before distilling, but no, Litchfield distillery doesn’t produce beer for consumption). Guests are given a lesson on how whiskey is made, what defines it as ‘bourbon’, and some nuances of the aging process.
We’re also introduced to the other products the distillery makes, including a vodka, a couple Gins, and an ‘agave spirit’ (not called a tequila because its not produced in Mexico). We were also informed about their barrels and some partnerships they have to create some other products (like the Maple syrup, which I regret not buying… a future trip may be required). The group was brought back into the main room, but this time instructed to sit at the collection of tables for the last part of the tour, the tasting.
Just before the tasting, we’re told that the alcohol burn you’ll get can interfere with tasting bourbon if you aren’t used to it. I think they should add to the tasting instructions that many experts (your truly included) suggest adding a small amount of water to the taste. This will ‘open up’ the bourbon and cut down on the alcohol burn. Happily, bottles of water are provided at the tasting tables, so all are well equipped for that.
We tried a few of their bourbons, had a choice from their two bottled pre-mixed cocktails (a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned; if you have followed my Inebrious Channel on YouTube, you’d know already I chose the Old Fashioned), and their Maple Syrup. Litchfield makes a quality bourbon. While I can tell differences in barrel aging time, strength, and some mash ratio differences, I can only really tell you that Litchfield core bourbons are great. Since I usually mix into cocktails, I’m not too keen on flavored spirits. (I’ll add whatever flavoring I want in the construction of the cocktail, so I prefer a straight spirit.) But I can tell you their flavored bourbons have a fine base. The pre-made Old Fashioned was serviceable, and what I’d expect from a well-trained bartender if I didn’t give specific instructions on how I like my Old Fashioned (sometimes I will, sometimes I won’t). While a little strange to drink a small shot of Maple Syrup (one tour guest made an appropriately timed ‘Buddy the Elf’ joke), it was very tasty.
Litchfield Distillery is a true gem of Connecticut. A person well educated in spirits isn’t going to learn anything new on the tour but will still have a good time. Most folks will learn a lot while having the same enjoyable moment. I’m pleasantly surprised the tour is free, and appreciative there was absolutely zero pressure to buy anything at the end. I bought a bottle of the Double-Barreled Bourbon Whiskey, and a ‘Nip’ (50ml / 1.7 ounce bottle) of the Cask Strength Bourbon Whiskey. I was happy that those were glass as well.
Check them out and book a tour at https://litchfielddistillery.com/