‘Living the dream’: Distillery becomes a reality on Shelton family’s farm

SHELTON — Dan Beardsley’s dream of a farm-to-flask distillery has come to fruition, and people have been indulging in the concept for the past month.

White Hills Distillery, at 278 Leavenworth Road, better known as home to Beardsley’s Cider Mill and Orchard, opened its doors in May, and the new business’ grand opening is planned for July 24 from noon to 8:30 p.m.

“I am actually ‘living the dream,’” Beardsley said. “Ever since seeing my great-grandfather Clark Beardsley’s prohibition era still tucked away in one of our barns as a child, I’ve wanted to rekindle that family tradition, but legally this time.

“This is such a great way to utilize our local farm’s products as well as my orchard’s fruit in a unique fashion that consumers can really appreciate,” Beardsley added. “I am so proud of my spirits and can’t wait to share them with others.”

Beardsley said the grand opening will feature a food truck and live music along with some local spirits such as vodkas, apple brandy, bourbons and whiskeys, and flavored moonshines.

This journey began more than four years ago with the introduction of a bill in the state legislature to allow farm distilleries in Connecticut, Beardsley said. After it was signed into law, he began the task of permitting the distillery through first the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, then the state Department of Consumer Protection, Alcohol Division.

Permits were in hand in April 2020 during the pandemic shutdown.

“During all of the incessant back and forth with the permitting groups, I began the complete renovation of our horse barn to house the distillery production and tasting areas,” Beardsley said. “Then we started producing spirits and perfecting our techniques.

“After four years of capital expenditures, we finally opened our doors to the public on Memorial Day weekend this year,” he added. “I am just so excited to have customers expound on how awesome my spirits are. We have been very well received.”

The Beardsley family has been farming on this plot of land since 1849, and Dan Beardsley is the fourth-generation grower. He is not the first Beardsley to distill spirits on this farm, he said, but he is the first one to do it legally.

Beardsley said the distillery offers seasonal infused spirits from his own fruit, as well as that from neighboring farms, such as strawberry and blueberry infused vodkas from Jones Family Farms and watermelon moonshine — called Melonhead Shine — and cucumber infused vodka from Stone Gardens-grown fruit. Apple brandy, apple pie moonshine and apple-infused vodkas come from his own orchard’s fruit.

White Hills Distillery is creating hopped whiskeys from ales made at Veracious Brew Pub in Monroe, gets the grains for the bourbon from Thrall Farm in Windsor, and has laid out plans to plant an organic botanical garden on the farm to produce flavored herbs for gin next year.

Not all ingredients can grow in the state though, according to Beardsley, as his molasses is imported from Barbados and used for crafting the bottled-aged rum, due to be released next summer. Cinnamon and nutmeg are also imported for the apple pie moonshine.

For more information, visit www.whitehillsdistillery.com or call 475-269-5085.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com