Correction:Wednesday's article on the Spirits of Old Bennington incorrectly stated when the Vermont Tissue Mill ceased operations. The company stopped making paper in 1986 and, until it closed for good in 2006, cut paper purchased from and made elsewhere into sizes that customers ordered.
NORTH BENNINGTON — Founders of a new distillery aim to bring new life into the former Vermont Tissue Mill.
The Spirits of Old Bennington, founded by husband and wife Ken and Alexis Lorenz, will soon be making two types of spirits using hydroelectric power produced by the Walloomsac River.
"We'll be making two white spirits — gin and vodka — to start," Ken Lorenz, of West Hoosick, N.Y., said Tuesday at the mill. "Once we get off the ground, we'd like to make brown spirits, like whiskey, too."
Visitors will eventually be able to taste test and purchase the products at the distillery, he said.
He said the new startup will foster local businesses and give visitors one more thing to do while they're in the area.
"There are a lot of breweries opening and distilleries are starting to follow suit," he said. He also spoke of the local food and drink movement — more and more people want to know what they're consuming and how it's made.
The idea took root after Lorenz and his wife visited Scotland several years ago and, during their trip, toured local distilleries.
"We began talking about it more and more and eventually realized it was something we wanted to do," he said.
They partnered with North Bennington resident and entrepreneur Bill Scully, who spearheaded the cleanup and reuse of the former Vermont Tissue Mill. The mill ended operations in 2006.
A new hydroelectric project at the site began creating electricity in September. Two state-of-the-art turbines make up a 360 kilowatt system that is expected to generate 1.64 gigawatt hours of electricity annually.
Lorenz said his business has entered into a net metering agreement with the hydroelectric operation — 100 percent of the distillery's electricity will be generated by the Walloomsac River.
A 4,000 BTU propane furnace will provide heat for the distilling process, Lorenz said.
The 3,000-square-foot space, with exposed brick and sky lights, will hold the distillery equipment — including a large, custom-made still made by Trident Stills of Etna, Maine — and an area for tastings.
Lorenz plans on making four types of gin to start — juniper, floral, citrus and botanical — and two types of vodka — a wheat and potato. He said he hopes to be making test batches by December.
Lorenz said his dream is to rent more space next door that is currently unoccupied.
He and his wife have founded an Indiegogo fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $15,000. The funds would allow them to restore the building's facade, install windows and doors leading to the river and let visitors see wildlife and the dam, and, they hope, create a larger tasting room and show room.
"We've gotten great support from the town," Lorenz said.
He said local legislators, Bennington's Economic and Community Development Director Michael Harrington and Bennington County Industrial Corp. Executive Director Peter Odierna were influential in helping the project get off of the ground. And he's been working in the new co-working space, the Lightning Jar, while work is done in his space.
For more information, visit Spirits of Old Bennington on Facebook. A website, www.spiritsofoldbennington.com, will be launched in the next few days.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979