Lawmakers look to change distillery rules - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lawmakers look to change distillery rules

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Westford Hill Distillery (WFSB) Westford Hill Distillery (WFSB)

Westford Hill Distillery in Ashford started in 1997, and was one of the first six in the craft distillery movement in the U.S.

Now there's over 1,500, and while business has grown, some state lawmakers are looking to change the rules.

Connecticut has seen success in agritourism.

"The wine trail is tremendously successful and our hope is distilleries can both add to that success and then generate its own success as well,” said State Rep. Jason Pirello (R-Shelton).

To start up a winery on a farm, it’s $300 for a permit every year, but for a distillery it’s $1,850.

The Farm Distillery bill aims to make it the same.

"We're trying to create some parody there and break that barrier to entry,” Pirello said.

It would also place some restrictions to make sure there is distinction between a farm distillery and large scale wholesaler.

Connecticut has about half a dozen distilleries right now, some craft.

"We're producing brandies, rums, whiskies and vodkas,” said Louis Chatey, of Westford Hill Distillery. "To go from $1,850 to $300 a year doesn't sound like a lot but it really can't be minimized when you're a small business person and every penny certainly counts."

Distillation is taking fermented fruit or grains, concentrating the alcohol, and producing spirits.

A half bottle of brandy took about 14 years to age and it took about 10 pounds of apples to make it, so it takes a lot of time and effort to get it into a small glass.

Chatey said he would like some wording on the bill changed.

"But it says that you need to purchase all of your raw materials from within the state, which is really something we can't do as distillers,” Chatey said.

Many fruits, grains and products used are further than a 150-mile radius.

The wine and spirit wholesalers of Connecticut oppose the bill and say the state has long recognized the difference between wine and brandy products.

Representative Pirello says they're still working on finalizing the language of the bill.

The session ends the first week of June.

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