MONTPELIER — Brewing, business, and politics joined forces today to break ground on the new 26,000-square-foot distillery for Caledonia Spirits at the aptly named address of 116 Gin Lane in Montpelier. “This has been one of the biggest teams, biggest projects, I have ever worked on,” Said Ryan Christiansen, Caledonia Spirits' president and head distiller, while addressing the crowd. This is the company’s first expansion outside of its 6,500-square-foot building in Hardwick, where the business was started by founder Todd Hardie. “The focus was always on people,” said Hardie. “Our mission statement was and still is to support the people of Vermont, the farmers, and the economy of Vermont.” Hardie comes from a family that has been distilling for over 130 years, with their company, J&W Hardie, near Edinborough Scotland, and Hardie said distilling “was in his genes.” Hardie has always had a love for bees and has cared for them since the age of 12 when he got his first beehive. This love of bees and their raw honey led him into the brewing business, where he desired to make an alcoholic spirit that captured the taste of the raw honey. “Raw honey is so good that anything you do to it detracts from the quality, the taste, and the bouquet,” said Hardie. That desire to keep the honey pure and untouched led to Hardie and his team developing their own, unique recipe, one in which the honey is never heated and is incorporated with the spirits at the very end of the distilling process. “All of that is very unusual,” said Hardie. “The world, for the most part, heats honey and often with spirit products, using colored water and products to give a honey simulation.” Caledonia Spirits' line may also be expanding shortly after the opening of this new distillery, with hints dropped of a spirit made from burdock, and a rye whiskey made from Hardie’s own rye at his Thornhill Farm in Greensboro Bend. Vermont’s brewing industry has exploded over the past few years, and now the state has more breweries and distilleries per capita than any other state in the nation. However, Christiansen and his team noticed that even though there are so many breweries in Vermont, none were in the capital city, and they wanted to take advantage of that, and have a brewery near his childhood hometown. “I grew up in Plainfield,” said Christiansen. “Montpelier has been my downtown throughout my whole childhood, and now it’s my kids' downtown.” The distillery will be home to “aggressive research and development” in Caledonia Spirits' potential new grain-based products, said Christiansen, but that won’t detract from their current line of products. Gov. Phil Scott and Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson also addressed the crowd. “It seems like there are so many projects coming to fruition in Montpelier,” said Watson. “And I’m so delighted to be mayor at a time when so many projects are coming together."