Elliott Davis strives for perfection in everything he does. After living and working in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, he and his family moved to Litchfield County 18 years ago. He subsequently purchased a historical house with acres of land and decided to start a farm: raising Icelandic sheep, heritage chickens, bees, and making maple syrup. “I wanted to do all the old stuff and decided to make cider,” explains Davis, “so I put in a test orchard of 100 trees. But once you get into doing hard cider it has to be regulated and taxed and this became a commitment and I really started to think about it. In England and France they love cider; in this country we don’t drink it as much. I realized I wasn’t going into a business that would be viable.”
But who doesn’t love a cocktail? So Davis decided that opening a distillery was the route he would go. “Originally I was planning to buy another farm,” says Davis. “I looked at some of the Roxbury Land Trust’s farms, hoping to collaborate, and then Barbara Henry, the first selectman of Roxbury, brought me down to the property at the old railway station and I knew this was the place I wanted.”
That was in 2015 and it was the beginning of not only starting a distillery but taking on the task of restoring and repurposing several historic buildings. Built in 1872, the Roxbury Station had fallen into disuse and disrepair, as had the adjacent buildings. Working with vintage photographs, Davis has restored or preserved the exterior historic appearances of the buildings. Preserving the old train station has been challenging since the building was near collapse. It is now finished and returned to its original glory. While the exteriors have been dictated by history, the interiors have been refitted with top of the line equipment to produce spirits—from bourbon to gin to vodka.
While many breweries and microbreweries have sprouted up in the past few years, distilleries are still a growing business. In New York State there are over 70 distilleries, in Connecticut there are fewer than ten. “We are still at the beginning of this craft boom,” says Davis. “Thirty years ago craft beers had two percent of the market share; today they have 35 percent. I believe it is part of the farm to table momentum and coming back to what’s made locally. I think people are looking for a new variety of spirits, not just your father’s Cutty Sark.”
Davis plans to revive a demand for local grains and botanicals to help farmers in the area and to bring local flavor to Mine Hill’s spirits. In addition to state of the art facilities, Davis has brought in Zach Curd as his head distiller. Curd worked in the flavor industry in Chicago for five years and was most recently working in Kentucky. “I was there making bourbon, vodka, and gin and then this opportunity came my way—it’s a unique experience to be able to create world-class spirits and celebrate the local area and suppliers.”
But Davis’s vision goes beyond just creating a superior product. He has many ideas about how to use the buildings at Mine Hill. In addition to those used for making the spirits, many of the public rooms are available for events. He also plans to devote space for local artists and artisans to display their wares. The old Roxbury Station is definitely gaining a new life thanks to Davis’s vision and ingenuity.