Sip Local Spirits in Winchester
A craft distillery brings new life to Main Street
Photo by Susan Laughlin
Robert Patton-Spruill a multi-talented man. He teaches filmmaking at Emerson College in Boston, and his New England Sweetwater Farm & Distillery in Winchester has been a breath of intoxicating fresh air to this small mill town. Patton-Spruill and his wife, Patti Moreno, are heavily invested in bringing new life to Main Street with their skill, enthusiasm and modest finances.
Patton-Spruill was able to buy the former hardware store, a condemned property, for around $135,000 and then added another $250,000 to complete a gorgeous renovation. The attractive storefront looks sophisticated with black paint and gold lettering for signage. Effort and money was spent to keep the renovation appropriate for its age — 100-year-old glass was salvaged to separate the tasting and distilling areas. It’s a great start for a downtown renewal. Patton-Spruill also owns the buildings on either side of the distillery, with one already renovated and ready for its next life. He hasn’t decided quite what to do with it yet, but a small restaurant is under consideration.
Why Winchester? Patton-Spruill says his mother was a hippie and she looked across New England for a retirement retreat/farm with just the right Zen. After her death in 2010, Patton-Spruill decided to keep the property and help to invigorate the town. He was also inspired by a New Hampshire law that gives investors in historic districts a tax break for a number of years to bridge the gap while their business gains steam. He renamed his mother’s property Sweetwater Farm and uses the artesian well water for making his spirits, along with flavoring agents grown on its 40 acres.
You could say spirit-making was in Patton-Spruill’s blood — or at least his bloodline. His father had a still in the house until he preferred to abstain and abandoned the hobby. Like any good son, he experimented with the equipment during his college years, but he put the interest on the back burner until recently.
Now, New England Sweetwater Distillery gleams with an array of stainless distilling pots and column evaporators. Oak barrels are stacked and filled with product — some aging a newly fermented whiskey on its way to bourbon. Step inside the tasting room for a real treat. The space is artfully finished with reclaimed wood and, if luck is with you, Kristy Stephens Ammann, former owner of Butter’s in Concord and now instructor at SNHU’s culinary arts program, will be offering tastings. Amman was born and raised in Winchester and, by happenstance, met Patton-Spruill and was immediately adopted into the mission.
Although the distillery is less than a year old, New England Sweetwater has an impressive array of spirits for the tasting. Patton-Spruill’s Ashuelot (Ash-will-it) Vodka recently was nudged out of first place by a single point at the American Craft Spirits Awards. He says, “I am going to try even harder now. I am turning the still up to 11.” Gin, whiskey and moonshine are also available for tasting and available in nips, with 375 ml and 750 ml bottles at the counter. If you ask nicely, you may get a sample of their promising bourbon. It should be ready to bottle in two years. Have patience — hand bottling and labeling puts limits on production, and occasionally products run out of stock. But that’s part of the beauty of the American craft distilling movement. Batches are small, but cultivated from local products that spur local agriculture. Whatever you want to call it — farm-to-bottle, seed-to-sip, field-to-glass — local has never been more potent.
Use New England Sweetwater's concoctions to mix up Monadnock Moonshine Creamsicle sippers in your kitchen at home. Check out the recipe here.
Here's What's Distilling
Their vodka is distilled from New England apples and potatoes.
The gin is triple-filtered and infused with local juniper berries, cinnamon, lemon peel and other botanicals.
Clark & Chesterfield American Single Malt Whiskey
The un-aged base of this whiskey is named after an intersection in Winchester.
Clark & Chesterfield Solara Aged American Single Malt Whiskey
Solara aging involves keeping some of the original product in the barrel to improve the consistency.
This un-aged corn whiskey is smooth enough to drink straight up.
Kingfish White Rum
Made with molasses from Patton-Spruill’s Louisiana home state, this rum is good for sipping or cocktails. It’s named for the old snapping turtle lives in the nearby river.
Find products at the distillery and select New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets across the state.