Imagine yourself in a science lab at university and your professor (a Microbiologist actually) is lecturing at length on the scientific intricacies and botanical nuances of making rum and gin. Then imagine a similar scene but this time you are at a distillery, standing amongst stainless steel tanks on a concrete floor, and that same science professor is your tour guide. His passion bursts forth as he discusses molasses, yeast and contaminants. The mere mention of water alone conjures its own 15 minute segment. Even the simplest of questions by my novice audience is answered with an abundance of enthusiasm and detail. Thus was the heady experience one Saturday as we toured Vitae Spirits (pronounced Veeteye). Located in the Rose Hill neighborhood of Charlottesville, Virginia, and next door to Ace Biscuit and Barbecue.
Ian Glomski’s background laid the groundwork decades ago for his call to distilling when he tried to make his own beer in the bedroom of his parents’ home, being too young at age 18 to legally purchase in stores. “It was very bad beer,” he recalls.
This bad beer experience only fueled Ian’s fascination for microbiology. He went on to become an experienced brewer, winemaker, cheesemaker, meat curer, kefir culturer, veggie pickler and wild mushroom forager. According to his bio, “anything having to do with microbes turns him on.” He even trained for a time at the Pasteur Institute of Paris which ultimately led Ian to the University of Virginia as a Professor of Microbiology where he specialized in infectious diseases. Eventually though he needed a change and in 2013 took his passion for brewing, alcohol and microorganisms and started his own distillery. By 2015 Ian was producing high-quality rum and gin, much to the delight of the community.
Every small batch of true hand-crafted (i.e., no computers involved in the process) Vitae Spirits begins with the same base, evaporated cane juice, and ends as rum in his custom made Vendome copper still. Unlike most rums, Glomski’s rum is not charcoal filtered, however his Golden Rum (my personal favorite) is infused with sugarcane grilled on neighbor Ace Barbecue’s hickory.
Vitae’s gin contains 17 different botanicals but starts with the same molasses base as his rums.
At press time, the distillery was producing the following products (taken, in part, from the company website):
Anisette – predominantly flavored by the “licorice”-flavored essential oil anethole elaborated from anise seed. have a relatively high alcohol content with less sugar, allowiong the herbal qualities to shine.
Champion Brewery Collab #1 – Teamed up with neighbors Champion Brewing Company™ from their Violator Doppelbock beer.
Coffee Liqueur – Vitae Spirits® Coffee Liqueur is an inspired collaboration with local award-winning Mudhouse Coffee Roasters®.
Golden Rum – Vitae Spirits’ Golden Rum starts as a simple fermentation consisting primarily of water from the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, American sugar cane molasses, and yeast. The fresh sugar cane is grilled on house made charcoal in collaboration with neighbors Ace Biscuit & Barbeque, a bit of molasses, and oak to round the body and produce its enchanting color.
Modern Gin – Vitae Spirits’ Modern Gin is a dry gin that has a distinct but not overpowering juniper berry influence that allows the complexity of the other 16 botanicals to shine through. Modern Gin is redistilled in small batches using neutral spirits produced from American sugar cane molasses and water from the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Modern Gin is so packed with aromatic botanical oils that when shaken with ice you can see the oils fall out of solution in a delicate cloudiness, called a louche
Orange Liqueur – In Virginia the bitter hardy (trifoliate) orange grows prolifically yet its fruit is rarely eaten because of its bitter and sour juice. Orange liqueur (a.k.a. Triple Sec) is made from hardy orange zest collected from trees around Charlottesville, sweet oranges, and a touch of spices to add balance and complexity.
Platinum Rum – Rum, the original spirit of choice of the American colonies, was Paul Revere’s warming tipple on his historic ride one early spring night in 1775. Rum has been the Kill Devil of Caribbean buccaneers, the fuel of our founding fathers’ enlightenment, and the soul of exotic lands, yet it is so simple.
There’s no doubt that the Virginia distilling industry is booming. But what’s interesting is how many high-quality, truly outstanding products there are to choose from. Vitae Spirits is one of those and will not disappoint.
When to Visit: Mo-Fri 2-9; Sat 10-9; Sun 12-6.
Vitae Spirits products can be found at most Virginia ABC stores. If you are outside of the ABC region you can purchase their products from West DuPont Wine & Spirits or Modern Liquors
The small print:
Per Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control guidelines customers are allotted tastings of up to a total of 3 ounces per person per day. These tastings can either be served as straight spirit in 0.5 ounce pours or 1.5 ounces of spirits with a cocktail mixer.