When a Spirit Inspires
A gin spirit, that is
In the summer of 2021 I was visiting Vermont with my partner to see if we wanted to move there. An ambitious goal for a weeklong trip, but it gave us a sense of the place with the help of some friends who lived there.
One afternoon we drove to Montpelier, the capital, and we ended up at Barr Hill, an internationally award winning distillery and tasting room. I look back on that afternoon now with such fondness. Not only were the drinks and food delicious, but the experience was fun, inspiring, and beautiful. The culture of the local business was intentional and values-driven, and that clearly came through in the experience I had. Here’s what I noticed:
1. Their tagline - “Land crafted in the heart of Vermont”
Each person working was wearing a shirt with this tagline on the back of it. I love this tagline because it recognizes the land and place that make this business possible. It has a humility about it and it gives credit first and foremost to the land and waters of Vermont for crafting the raw materials needed to make the spirits. It’s a clear and concise way to express a core value of the business to both team members and customers.
2. Values driven initiatives - Bee’s Knees Week
We happened to be there during their annual Bee’s Knees Week. Each year they commit to planting 10 sq ft of pollinator habitat for every photo of a Bee’s Knees cocktail or bottle of Barr Hill Gin shared on social media during the week. With thousands of bars, restaurants, and spirit shops participating nationally and internationally, this undoubtedly increases awareness about Barr Hill, but it’s also a way for Barr Hill to give back to the ecological systems they influence in order to produce their products. Seeing businesses model how to tangibly give back to the land and waters is essential for shifting the culture of business away from extraction and endless growth, and towards more sustainable economies and ecologies.
3. Great execution
The drinks and the small bites we had were delicious. This is one of the most essential pieces of small business - do what you do well. It was obvious while being at the distillery and tasting room that Barr Hill takes pride in what they do and how well they do it. And for good reason. They’re producing a high quality product, which honors the customers, the creators, and the materials required to create it.
4. An inspiring aesthetic
Barr Hill sits along the Winoskitekw / Winooski River. The building that houses the distillery and tasting room is beautiful, but we sat outside on a warm September afternoon. Aesthetics are important because they’re information for the senses. The environment in which we experience something plays a role in how we experience it. Sitting outside that day next to the river enhanced the land crafted theme for me. Whether we’re creating physical or digital spaces, the information we provide to the senses significantly contributes to the meaning of the experience.
5. Relaxed and friendly team
That day was busy at Barr Hill, but we received great service. The team seemed relaxed and well equipped, like they had the tools they needed to complete their job effectively. Some days may not be so seamless - growing, training, and maintaining a team is one of the hardest parts of business. But it’s important to mention because it plays a huge role in the experience. The connections between team members (including founders) informs the experience of the customers because it’s an ecosystem of dynamics.
I did end up moving to Vermont. It wasn’t specifically because of this experience, but experiencing multiple businesses with similar strengths as Barr Hill was a deciding factor. I love living in a place where small businesses are thinking about their role in the community and with the land, and how we can create more equitable economies. It inspires my work and it inspires my day-to-day practices.
Find what stands out to you.
The next time you go out to eat, attend an event, go to an art show, etc. pay attention to…
What details make it a ‘wow!’ experience for you? What makes you feel connected and inspired?
How are the values communicated and then acted upon?
What aesthetics (music, lighting, chairs and tables, smells, decorations, etc.) make you feel good?
How are the people around you experiencing the place?
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