by: Amy Ciarametaro
As the first distillery in Charlottesville city limits to broadly distribute its products Vitae Spirits is stirring up A LOT of excitement. The restaurant community and consumers alike can’t stop talking about Vitae’s Platinum Rum, Golden Rum, and Modern Gin. Founder and distiller Ian Glomski comes into the spirits realm with a unique “vitae.” As a former professor of Microbiology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, he’s no schlep.
For over 20 years, Ian (or Dr. Glomski, if you will) has had a fascination with microbes and how they sculpt our macroscopic world. As an experienced brewer, cheesemaker, meat curer, kefir culturer, veggie pickler, wild mushroom forager, and infectious disease specialist, anything having to do with microbes captivates him. Ian even trained at the Pasteur Institute of Paris, founded by the father of modern fermentation Louis Pasteur (think pasteurization). Ian also worked with his family’s wine businesses in Arizona, Page Springs Cellars and Arizona Stronghold Vineyards.
“I originally became a microbiologist because I was brewing beer in my apartment in college,” said Ian in a recent interview with NPR. “I was making awful-tasting beer; I wanted to find out why. I signed up for a microbiology course and isolated all the organisms in my awful-tasting beer. It ended up I slobbered in it a lot; most of the organisms in the bad beer were from my mouth.”
One might now ask themselves…. “Was it the chicken or the egg?” Did Ian become microbiologist because of his fascination with microorganisms, secretly knowing it was his destiny to become a producer of all things liquid and delicious, or did he become a distiller as a result of his extensive knowledge in biology and chemistry – or both? In addition to being an art form, producing beer, wine and spirits requires a vast working knowledge of biology and chemistry.
When you meet Ian, you will quickly realize that he has a zest for making spirits. He likes to take basic raw ingredients and turn them into faithful expressions of their botanical origins. To do this, Ian relies on his custom built copper pot still from Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Louisville, Kentucky, and custom built temperature-controlled fermentation tanks from Custom Metalcraft of Springfield, Missouri. He doesn’t pass his spirits through fine filters or activated carbon to “clean it up” because it can strip delicate flavors, nor are the spirits ever stored in plastic; only stainless steel, wood, and glass.
You can learn more about the unique spirits Ian produces by stopping by the distillery for tastings and tours after its planned public opening in October. For those that can’t wait, check out the extensive list of September #VaSpiritsMonth Tastemakers that are offering up special cocktails featuring Vitae Spirits.
Vitae Spirits Tasting Notes
Platinum Rum: Three primary ingredients go into Vitae Spirits’ Platinum Rum: water from the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, American sugar cane molasses, and yeast. It is the pure unadulterated essence of an American sugar cane molasses, ripe with creamy caramel and candied vanilla notes. The best uses of Platinum Rum are in cocktails that elevate these sugar cane flavors; perhaps best of all is the simple classic daiquiri, but the mojito, Cuba Libre, and Pain Killer are tough to forget.
Golden Rum: Same primary ingredients as the Platinum Rum: water from the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, American sugar cane molasses, and yeast. To the distillate they add fresh sugar cane grilled on house-made charcoal, in collaboration with our neighbors Ace Biscuit & Barbeque, a bit of molasses, and oak to round the body and produce its enchanting color.
The robust character of Golden Rum makes it particularly well suited for deep and intense cocktails, where a lesser rum would be lost in the crowd. Suggestions include: Hot Buttered Rum, Dark and Stormy, Hurricane, Mai Tai, and many other tiki bar specials.
Modern Gin: 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; the true definition of a modern gin. Modern Gin is redistilled in small batches using spirits produced from American sugar cane molasses and water from the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They have developed an unconventional hybrid production technique that applies both maceration and vapor infusion to extract aromatic oils from the botanicals, so that the robust base notes and ephemeral delicate aromas are captured. Unlike the many diluted gins available, 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. If you want a gin with maximal flavor, look for the louche.
Modern Gin stands out from the crowd by the fact that its base spirit comes from American sugar cane molasses. This gives it depth, complexity, and a mouthfeel that serves as a foundation from which to elevate and balance the aromatics in a manner rarely seen in other gins. Modern Gin is so crisp, clean, and focused that it needs little else than a good stir with ice, but makes a fantastic gin & tonic, Negroni, Tom Collins, or Gin Fizz among other cocktails.
Photo credit: Jay Paul