Ryan Christiansen, a Vermont native, is Head Distiller & President of Vermont’s Caledonia Spirits, famed for crafting
Barr Hill Gin, Barr Hill Reserve Tom Cat Gin and Barr Hill Vodka.
Ryan’s entrepreneurial path was born in his family-owned hardware business in Vermont. His exposure to the challenges of small-town business at an early age, fueled a desire to bring local products to a global market. Ryan spent 8 years as an avid brewer and owner of a home-brewing store, which eventually led him down a path to distilling. In 2011, Ryan met a beekeeper named Todd Hardie and captivated by Todd’s agricultural mission, sold his home brewing business to step foot into the distilling arena. With a 15 gallon still, and a Mercury station wagon, the beekeeper and the distiller built the Caledonia Spirits distillery and set out to share their beloved Barr Hill Gin with the world.
In partnership with a community of beekeepers, and the talented team of distillers in Vermont, Barr Hill studies the botanical nuances of raw honey, crafting award-winning spirits that honor the bounty of the land, the labor of the farmers and the pivotal role of bees in agriculture and the source of all honey.
Ryan spent 5 years leading the design and construction of the new Barr Hill distillery, which opened in Montpelier in 2019. The state-of-the-art distillery embodies the cutting edge of sustainability, leveraging solar power, heat reclamation and water recovery. Ryan is committed to the company’s mission of connecting agriculture to cocktail culture in an eco-friendly way and advocating for bee habitat. The Caledonia Spirits team recently built hives and installed them on Ryan’s family land in Plainfield VT, with the intention of furthering the team’s understanding of honey as a botanical, and bees as a central part of our ecosystem.
Under Ryan’s leadership, the Barr Hill Spirits from Caledonia Spirits Distillery has emerged as a highly visible advocate for bee habitat and survival. Not only does the distillery rely on bees for their honey, but so do one-third of all crops for pollination. Alarmingly, since 1947, the U.S. has lost more than 50% of its bee habitat. To raise bee awareness and help create bee habitat, the distillery launched Bee’s Knees Week with nearly 2,000 bars, restaurants and stores participating last year. Since the initiative launched, 325,000 square feet of new habitat has been funded with the goal of creating another 250,000 square feet this year. To learn more, go to beekneesweek.com