Black Flannel Operations

Black Flannel Distilling – What Makes Us Different?

Craft spirits has seen a surge in popularity over the past decade resulting in many more distilleries opening in Vermont and across the United States. This is very similar to the rise in Wine and Craft Beer over the years. What is not similar is a dirty little secret of the distilling industry.
The Black Flannel Ethos

Everyone respects and values those who hone their craft to the highest level. From beer to food to spirits made on-site, to the craftspeople and artists who contribute their talent, skills, and passion to bring a unique experience to our community, Black Flannel is the place where true craft is celebrated at every turn.

The Dirty Little Secret of the Distilling Industry

Many so-called small batch artisanal distilleries across the US sometimes use intentionally deceptive marketing practices to give consumers the impression that their product is a small batch, artisanal, or locally crafted product. The fact is they purchase their base spirits from a massive food ingredient corporation like MGP (Midwest Grain Products) in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Once these distilleries receive their mass produced spirit, they proof it down and package as is, or put it in a barrel for aging, or add flavoring before packaging. These companies are engaging in only one * of the four parts of the the art of distilling, which include:
  1. Processing Raw Ingredients to produce fermentable sugars
  2. Fermentation
  3. Distillation
  4. Rectifying / Aging / Finishing / Packaging <— *
Black Flannel Distilling Company believes that in order to be called a true small batch craft or artisanal distillery, companies must engage in at least 3 steps in the process. This has the added advantage of being able to control the results across all steps, thereby producing a superior and highly unique product.
The process whereby a spirit is cut, blended, mixed, or infused with any ingredient and changes the character of the spirit is referred to as Rectification. Depending on the skill of the rectifier, a finished product might be very good, but more often than not, it can be less than stellar with many lost opportunities had the producer chosen to control at least the steps of fermentation and distillation before rectifying/aging/finishing/packaging. Many craft “distilleries” only rectify and do no actual distilling. All distilleries are rectifiers but not all rectifiers are distilleries. Let’s take a closer look at each step of the art of distilling to get a sense of why each has an important impact.
1.) Processing Raw Ingredients to produce fermentable sugars
In many cases (like malt whiskey), engaging in this first step of the art of distilling affords many opportunities to create a superior product.  In the creation of an American Malt Whiskey, the distiller has infinite possibilities when it comes to the creation of the malt bill used for the mash. They choose malts with a specific aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and finish in mind. The finished product will also depend on the mashing skill of the distiller – that is, the ability to convert cereal grain starches into fermentable sugars.  At Black Flannel, having a brewery and distillery under one roof affords us the opportunity to leverage the skill of a professional brewing staff to optimize the flavor and yield of a given recipe. Our brewers know how to get the most efficiency and flavor out of grain. This is a distinct advantage for our products distilled from grain. Our white beet spirit Rare Earth is a rare and very unique spirit. Our spiritmaster Dave Mosher grows from seed white (sugar) beets and harvests in the fall. He will macerate the beets before fermentation. The finished product benefits from local terroir and again contributes to a superior finished product.
2.) Fermentation
The distiller can choose to ferment their mash or wash with different types of yeast, at different temperatures which can have a significant impact on the final flavor profile of the finished spirit. Some yeasts produce more esters and/or phenols at higher temperatures. This is a decision point for the distiller who may, through trial and error, find that a superior product is produced at say a 76 degree fermentation versus a 68 degree fermentation. At Black Flannel, our Distilling team has a great deal of experience selecting and working with a wide variety of yeasts.  They have even produced a spirit with a custom yeast captured locally and propagated to batch sizes that can be used at production scale. Having a professional brewing staff available also proves valuable when fermentations don’t fully cooperate and threaten to impact yield (the amount of alcohol produced during fermentation).
3.) Distillation
The distillation itself is the step that perhaps has the most profound impact on the quality of the final product. A superior level of knowledge and experience working with a production still can make or break quality. The understanding of how to optimize the hearts produced in the run, the temperature, speed, and final proof at which a given spirit comes off the still, all impact quality. Subtle changes to any of these factors during distillation can have a major impact in either direction. A common practice at Black Flannel is to target the proof coming off the still close to barrel strength to retain as much of the flavor of the original sugar source as possible.  Whiskeys taste like the grains used to produce them.  Agave Spirit (Agave Dream) tastes like the 100% Organic Blue Weber Agave used to produce it.  The white beet spirit tastes like white beets.  The blueberry spirit tastes like blueberries.  The snozberries taste like snozberries.  Well… you know.
4.) Aging / Finishing / Packaging
This is where many so-called distilleries start their process once they receive their MGP mass produced spirit product – usually in large plastic totes. As you can imagine, it’s a hell of a lot less expensive for these companies to start with a spirit in this form, rather than having to go through the pain of all those steps before it. You know, those pesky first 3 steps  – like idiots – we choose to engage in at much greater expense. So why do we do it?  Because it’s a much deeper level of engagement in our craft.  It gives us greater control and produces what we believe are far better results. It allows us to create a wide variety of true small batch craft distilled products with aromas, flavors, and finishes not available anywhere else.
Small Batch / Artisanal Distiller?
MGP as a volume producer has no interest to make small batch artisanal spirits like many of the spirits we produce at Black Flannel Distilling. Distilleries who purchase MGP product are sometimes outright deceptive, claiming their product is a locally made small batch artisanal product. The worst offenders don’t have a working still and lead people (through inference) to think it was distilled at their location. Some use the word “Distillery” in their company name. This type of operation is really a packager or a rectifier, not a distiller. There are other operations who use a “hybrid” model where they start with the mass produced MGP product and redistill it into something different. This approach is certainly better than operations who don’t have a working still, but it begs the question: If they don’t start with raw ingredients and take the time to apply their craft to fermentation, can it be called a small batch artisanal product? This might be considered by some to be a gray area. Our perspective and preference is clear and simple: unless a distillery is making their product from sugar source to glass, it’s misleading to try to pass their products off as small batch or artisanal. When it comes down to it, there is nothing wrong with developing a business that purchases bulk spirits and resells under its own brand packaging, or redistills starting from a mass produced product, as long as they are honest about what it is they are selling. The problem comes when they try to pass it off as a locally crafted small batch artisanal product. Those who take the time to engage in 3-4 steps in the art of distilling do so at greater cost in terms of ingredients, processing, energy, blood, sweat and tears. The false equivalence presented in the marketplace can be a tough pill to swallow.
Let the Buyer Beware
For those who care about the integrity of where and how their spirits are produced, we recommend consumers watch the wording used on marketing carefully.  If it makes a difference to you, take the time to ask in-depth questions from the distillery before you buy. The first and most important question is: “Do you produce all of your products from sugar source to glass?” If they don’t immediately answer with a resounding “YES!” then you have your answer. Perhaps the distillery has a number of products they produce from sugar source to glass and others they purchase from MGP.  We believe it’s worth your time to dig further and understand which products are mass produced, and which are truly locally produced artisanal products. In the end, it’s the taste of the product that matters most. Do you enjoy drinking it? Does how it is produced matter to you?  Does supporting the true craft of the distiller add to your enjoyment of the product?  Informed is empowered.
Black Flannel lines of Spirits
  • Black Gold Malt Whiskey (Unique Distinctive with bitter chocolate finish)
  • Vermont Common Whiskey (similar to Bourbon)
  • Heavy Base American Single Malt Whiskey (like a Highland Scotch)
  • Agave Dream Blanco (Unaged Tequila-like spirit)
  • Agave Dream Reposado (Aged Tequila-like spirit)
  • London Calling Dry Gin
  • Dutch Soul Genever (Unaged – old world gin)
  • Dutch Soul Genever (Barrel Aged – old world gin)
  • Crow’s Nest Rum (Unaged)
  • Crow’s Nest Rum (Barrel Aged)
  • Raven’s Share (Pinot / Imperial Stout Barrel Aged Rum)
  • Crow’s Nest Spiced Rum
  • White Lace Vodka
  • Bierschnapps (3 versions)
Garden Spirits:
  • Rare Earth White Beet Spirit
  • Maple Garden Spirit
  • Raspberry Garden Spirit
  • Blueberry Garden Spirit
  • Cranberry Garden Spirit
Botanical Spirits (in Development for release in 2024):
  • Absinthe Blanche (Clear)
  • Absinthe Verde (Green)
  • Absinthe Rouge (Red)
  • Aquavit (Caraway-forward Scandinavian style spirit)
Botanical Spirits (in Development for release in the FUTURE):
  • Amaro Aperitif (currently in R&D)
  • A Vermont-based Jaegermeister-style liqueur (currently in R&D)
  • Bitters (currently in R&D)
The ability to engage at a deep level in our craft makes all the difference to ourselves and our community of fans. Black Flannel Distilling Company offers a unique experience that, while on the surface may seem similar to other distilleries, offers a deep pool of experience, knowledge, and passion for those who take the time to engage with us and learn what makes us different. A few tastes of our spirits makes all of this very clear. Black Flannel is rooted in tradition but not shackled by it. We make historical spirits but also engage in new and innovative and experimental products. Because of our business model and approach to engaging in 3 to 4 parts of the art of distilling, we have given ourselves this luxury. Making everything from scratch gives us a high level of versatility. There are so many more interesting flavors and ingredients to experiment with other than the traditional products people are familiar with. Our ethos would make us feel that we are selling our community short if we were to just stick with what is most popular. We are very proud of what we do.  It’s the small things that make a huge difference. And seeing the reaction of our loyal customers feeds the craft beasts inside us.
Craft Spirits Education
Part of our mission is to educate our guests in craft beer and spirits. Craft distilling education helps to facilitate discussion and delivers a deeper level of knowledge from which consumers are better armed to make informed buying decisions when they make a spirits purchase. In the near future, we will offer a spirits 101 course to talk about the world of spirits and how spirits are made, we give distillery tours and tastings, culinary craft cocktail classes, and our Spiritmaster does a week long course every year on the business of craft distilling in collaboration with Vermont Technical College.
Cast of Characters:
  • David Mosher – Spiritmaster, Co-Founder/Co-Owner
  • Travis Johnson – Head Distiller, Co-Founder/Co-Owner
  • Chris Kesler – R&D, Development, Marketing, Co-Founder/Co-Owner
  • Dan Sartwell – Director of Beverage Operations, Co-Owner
  • Michael Lattanzio – In-Market Rep, Cocktail Class instructor, Cocktail R&D
  • Deb Kesler – HR & Head of Accounting
  • Rob Friesel – Craft Beer Educator
Please feel free to reach out to us at if you have questions, comments, or feedback