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Killington Distillery has the Perfect Formula for Success

January 20, 2023

This is a pretty exciting time for Killington Distillery co-owner Caroline Wise. Not only is her spirits, restaurant and hotel business taking off, she was also just a week away from welcoming her first child, a baby girl, in early November.

She and her dad, Jack Wise, who is her business partner and co-owns the distillery, are very proud of everything they have achieved within the Killington Ski Resort village in a very short time. They purchased the business in 2019 and opened in August 2020. Killington is like a second home to them. “We absolutely love being in Vermont. We have a home there and a house down here,” said Caroline. Caroline said she and her partner, Sydney Atkins, were expecting their first child on Nov. 10. They haven’t decided on any names yet. “We are going to wait until we meet her.” Caroline and Sydney have been married for two years.

The Killington Distillery Team


Together with Head Distiller Ryan Bremser of New York State, this father and daughter-led team have created an impressive line of spirits that rival any of the products made by the fellow Vermont craft distilleries. Chief among them are: the Maple Cask Bourbon, which is blended with locally harvested maple syrup and barreled; their VTQuila Blanco, an agave spirit made with 100 percent blue agave nectar; their Woodland Gin, which has notes of spruce tips, citrus and juniper; and their limited 4241 Blended Whiskey Series. When their patrons sample this limited series in particular, Jack said they are usually blown away because they experience something they really could not anticipate. The whiskey series is different each time, Jack explained. They just released blend number 6 which is comprised of two sourced 3.5-year-old bourbon whiskeys, a sourced 3.5-year-old rye whiskey and a 5-month-old American single malt distilled in house. They produce anywhere from 250 to 300 bottles for each series and it is only available at the distillery. “There are a number of aging barrels and some are starting to yield good flavors,” Jack said.


A row of Blended Whiskey bottles on a shelf

When asked how their whiskey series is received, Jack replied, “Their facial reactions when they first taste your product is something that is the most honest reaction you get.” Usually, their body language and that sensation of surprise before they experience the wow factor happens before the smiles appear on their faces, Jack said. At that moment, their patrons realize they have discovered something very special, indeed. Caroline also enjoys seeing couples or a group friends delight in sampling a tasting plate in the Still of the Mountain restaurant adjacent to the distillery. Initially they may say they are not big fans of bourbon, but after they sample Killington Distillery’s Maple Cask Bourbon they love it. Caroline explained that all three of their businesses: the Killington Distillery, The Mountain Inn, which has 49 rooms, and the Still of the Mountain restaurant, work in tandem to provide their guests with the best hospitality when they are through skiing or mountain biking and golfing in the summer and fall. Jack pointed out another thing that makes their distillery unique.

“Within New England, we are the first to operate a hotel and distillery,” he said. Caroline enjoyed a successful eight year career as an events and experience manager with a high-tech firm that catered to the hospitality industry. Jack has been in the real estate development business for more than 20 years and developed many hotel projects in New England. They spent many weekends skiing at Killington from the time Caroline was a little girl. She said that she and her father always wanted to go into business together. Three years ago, they saw the property, which was a hotel and closed restaurant. Neither one of them had much experience in the distillery industry, but shared a keen interest in the craft. “I have a longstanding interest in it that developed over the years and we were looking for the right fit and this was the right fit working with Caroline,” Jack said. “Killington has always been great experience for us,” Caroline added. “It wasn’t a huge pivot for me.” Jack and Caroline spent about 80 percent of their weeks working at the distillery so they can be as involved in the day-to-day operation as possible. Regardless of the season, Jack and Caroline say they have a good complement of patrons who come to the distillery to sample their spirits. Being located in the heart of the Killington Ski Resort area provides them with great brand exposure. While the winter ski season is the busiest time of year with summer running a close second, spring and fall are busier on the mountain than in the past.

Ryan Bremser, Head Distiller, monitors his work on another special spirit blend at Killington Distillery.

Ryan Bremser, Head Distiller, monitors his work on another special spirit blend at Killington Distillery.

“Vermont is becoming known as a four season community,” Jack said. He believes the growing popularity of mountain biking has a great deal to do with that. “It has been building year after year for the past 10 years.” Caroline said Killington has one of the best downhill bike parks in the East Coast. At the Killington Distillery, Caroline said hotel guests can enjoy a full Vermont experience that is accompanied by their spirits, restaurant fare and hospitality. Caroline said many of their guests will head out and enjoy outdoor activities like skiing in the winter or golf and hiking the rest of the year. When they return to The Mountain Inn, they can enjoy great food and spirits at the Still of the Mountain restaurant. They can learn more about the distillery at the bar. Their guests can also take their favorite cocktails to the outdoor pool that is heated at a comfortable 100 degrees during the height of ski season. “In the winter it is a really nice experience especially with a great cocktail,” she added. Caroline said that three of their spirits: the Maple Cask Bourbon, Woodland Gin and their Vodka; are currently sold in Vermont agency stores. Caroline said they want to make sure that every time one of the patrons or hotel guests experiences their spirits, they will make a positive impression.

“Every time you get a bottle either at our distillery or at an Airbnb or at home, you have the ability to relax and enjoy a cocktail made with that spirit and create an experience.” Jack believes achieving that goal is the end result of the extensive distilling process that he and Ryan undertake. Like their fellow Vermont craft distillers, Jack said they never stop thinking about how they create a new blended whiskey or how they can improve their products. This dedication to their craft and putting a premium on quality over quantity makes all the difference. “We are working on a blue agave Vodka right now,” Jack said. Jack recalled that after they purchased the property in 2019, they conducted extensive renovations to build the distillery. “We took the whole western end of the building off and rebuilt it as the distillery production area,” Jack said. He said he and Ryan added new stills and selected custom distillery equipment to create the types of spirits - original whiskey, bourbon, tequila and blended whiskeys - they offer. They also made sure they had ample room to store enough barrels to age their spirits properly. “We had to go through a major process to allow the stills and fermenters in there,” Jack said. With an eye toward the future, Jack said they hope to expand their distillery operations.


Emily Miner, Bar Manager at Killington Distillery, presents one of their signature spirits.

Emily Miner, Bar Manager at Killington Distillery, presents one of their signature spirits.

“Our hope is to expand the distillery in Killington with a separate location to produce more single malts and bourbon at that location and do the gins, vodkas and clearer spirits at their current facility,” Jack said. When asked what it will take for Killington Distillery to enjoy continued success in Vermont’s craft distillery market, Jack summed it up this way: “The product, the experience when people come in and taste it and blending the three is really exciting. To keep it moving, it’s always changing just like Killington is always changing. By changing and growing with environment, it will work well.” Caroline said they will continue to solicit their customers’ input as much as possible to help guide their business. “Listening to our customers and knowing what they want to drink and what they enjoy” is always a key ingredient to making the perfect spirits.