By DANIEL SUDDEATH
Next summer, during the heart of agri-tourism season in Starlight, visitors to Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards will be able to sample and purchase locally distilled vodka.
Huber’s Starlight Distillery, according to state Rep. Ed Clere, is the first establishment in Indiana to secure an artisan distiller’s permit. The family-owned business will now be able to sell spirits such as whiskey, bourbon, vodka and gin both at the Starlight farm and to vendors.
Ted Huber, master distiller and sixth generation co-owner of Huber’s, said vodka will likely be the first spirit available for the public to sample and purchase. Gin will likely follow the Starlight Distillery vodka rollout, as Huber said the darker bourbon and whiskey spirits will need more time to prepare and perfect, and he’s hopeful they will be available in a year or so.
With its notoriety in the winery field as well as its experience distilling spirits, Huber believes the expansion for the business will be well-received.
“We’ve proven ourselves as distillers in the world marketplace,” he said during an event at Huber’s to announce the Starlight Distillery plans.
House Enrolled Act 1293, which was championed by Clere in the Statehouse, provided artisan distillers with the same opportunity that small breweries and wineries already had — to bottle their products and to sell them by the glass.
“It’s been a fun piece of legislation to work on,” Clere said.
Growing jobs, economic development and tourism — Clere said allowing artisan distillers such as Huber’s to expand their services will strengthen Indiana.
Huber estimated the orchard, winery and vineyards — which already garner more than 550,000 visitors annually — will see another 50,000 to 100,000 guests a year due to the distillery operation.
“This is a successful, diversified family business,” Clere said.
A second still will be constructed for the expansion, as well as a new building, but Huber said it’s still to be determined if that structure will house both stills or if will be used to store the products.
While state legislation has allowed for expansion, the Starlight Distillery is hardly a new concept. After purchasing a still in 2001, Starlight produced its first spirit, brandy, in 2004. Unlike other spirits, brandy was allowed to be bottled and sold by artisan distillers prior to the change in state legislation.
Huber’s is a member of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, or DISCUS, and was hailed by the organization as a national leader in the revival of small distilling in the United States.
“Through hard work and productive partnerships with legislative leaders, they have gone a long way to modernizing the marketplace in Indiana,” DISCUS Senior Vice President Frank Coleman stated in a news release.