Stonecutter Spirits serves last drinks

By HAEUN PARK

Courtesy Photo
For the last 7 years, Stonecutter Spirits have produced gin and whiskey from their distillery on Exchange Street. The company ceased production this year.

Stonecutter Spirits ceased its gin and whiskey production, permanently closing both its Middlebury tasting room and its Burlington cocktail bar, Highball Social. 

According to co-founder Sivan Cotel, the company began evaluating its options in the fall of 2019 and officially closed their two locations around New Year’s. One primary factor behind their decision was an inability to distribute to markets outside of Vermont. 

“It was certainly a hard decision,” Cotel said. “We were very proud of what we’d built with Stonecutter: the relationships we had with customers, the products we created and the events we did. But without gaining any traction outside of Vermont, the business wasn’t growing enough in order to pay the bills. Over time we had to accept that we hadn’t achieved the size that we hoped in order to make the business sustainable, and so we really had to make some hard choices.”

Cotel and Sas Stewart founded Stonecutter Spirits in 2013 and worked to convert what was previously a tile factory into an aging facility while simultaneously perfecting their recipes.  

“We decided to focus on making gin and whiskey because they’re our two favorite things to drink,” Stewart said. “Middlebury seemed like a beautiful space to be making something that we loved.”

Cotel and Stewart said they will miss the culture Stonecutter Spirits has fostered over the years.

“The community in Middlebury has been wonderful,” Cotel said. “I really can’t stress that enough. At our closing party on January 3, a number of folks said to me, ‘Wow it’s really sad to see Stonecutter leave. It will be a loss to our community.’ That meant a lot to us.”

Stonecutter Spirits has hosted numerous cocktail dinners and special events over the years of its operation. Elizabeth Tarr ’19 had been an employee at the company’s Tasting Room for six months before Stonecutter announced its closing. Tarr was able to see firsthand the impact that Stonecutter Spirits had on its community. 

“Stonecutter brought people together,” Tarr said. “Our events were always collaborative, [and] featured local musicians, chefs and organizations. People from Addison County to New Zealand would share a drink in the tasting room or [in] the comfort of their home.”

The company’s involvement extended not only to parties but also to fundraisers. Stonecutter Spirit’s annual Galentines Day event celebrated female friendships and business owners, while also raised money for WomenSafe, an Addison County organization that supports women who have been victims of domestic abuse. In 2019, Stonecutter Spirits raised over $5,000 for the cause. 

“Being able to use our platform to raise awareness and money for worthy organizations has been an honor,” Stewart said. 

As for the future, much is still to be determined. Cotel said that for the next half year, he will be working on selling off the equipment and inventory that’s left of Stonecutter Spirits. At present, there are still bottles of Stonecutter Spirits gin and whiskey on the shelves of liquor stores around the state. 

“We still have a little bit of work to do to wind down everything with Stonecutter,” Stewart said. “I want to properly and gratefully close this chapter before starting the next.”