080 – Ian Glomski, Vitae Spirits
September is Virginia Craft Spirits Month! Celebrate with all of your favorites. Preferably while listening to this episode.
Spirit Work. With Community Changes. Welcome to Episode 80 and the very first recorded after the events of August 12th. Meet Ian Glomski of Vitae Spirits, a former UVA professor of microbiology who decided to take his knowledge and apply it to the science of distilling. With fabulous results.
Edacious is about community, so we begin with how August 12th affected Charlottesville, including disturbing events that happened right next door the day after. The fact this happened in summer, the slowest season for business, didn’t help. At all. What then? We talk about it, as well as the challenges faced by our community as all sorts of changes, good and bad, happen when the town you live in has its moment in the national spotlight. We’re used to being named the Prettiest Little Town That Ever Existed. How do we handle this new label? How do we move forward consciously, with awareness and compassion? And how do we embrace revitalization when the very concept looks different depending on your perspective?
Ian’s love of microbes began early, college in fact, when he discovered while he couldn’t legally drink beer, he did have the ingredients to make it. A microbiology class improved his technique. A Ph.D. followed soon after. Eventually, Ian became a professor at the UVA School of Medicine, but his passion for fermentation never waivered. Pair that with a family background in wine and a job which no longer fed him emotionally and you’ve got the perfect equation for a new life path. A boutique distillery focusing on making the best possible spirits money can buy.
“There’s a certain level of scientist in me where I try to control variables as much as possible, but you can only control so many things and there’s a certain amount of intuition that I’ve developed…in the three-plus decades that I’ve been doing fermentation.”
Vitae Spirits was founded in 2015 and in only two years has made a name for itself, winning medals for its Modern Gin and Platinum Rum. Their tasting room is sleek, modern, yet insanely comfortable. A place right in town to tuck in and enjoy some tastings, maybe even a cocktail. Right next door to an awesome barbecue spot. But it’s off the beaten path in the burgeoning neighborhood of Rose Hill. What are Ian and his team doing to get folks there? How are his mission and vision different from those of corporate distillers?
“This was in my business plan…we want to maintain authenticity as best as possible…my ideal way of growth is essentially word of mouth. That has to be promoted in a lot of different ways…I’ll never be buying an NFL football spot even if I could afford it because…I want it to feel like a garage band situation where people recognize us as their own private, personal thing. That means we have to keep in touch with our customers.”
One method is using story. When Ian pours you a tasting of Golden Rum, you are being served by the man who made it. When he travels to festivals and restaurants selling his wares you are looking in the eyes of the man who spent hours developing the nectar in your mojito. He oversees every step of the process from fermentation to bottling. That’s huge. That use of story is elemental to good business growth. Incorporating a good logo by Convoy and beautiful bottle artwork by Lara Call Gastinger continues the story, sealing the deal.
“There’s a really long history of alcohol being associated as a medicine or with a medicine…the distillation process was discovered by Muslim alchemists…the alchemists were looking for an elixir of life…they put wine in an alembic still, a colorless liquid came out…they put a pear in it and the pear never rotted…they interpreted that as that liquid was infusing life force.”
The process of distilling rum, gin, and liqueurs is very different from creating bourbon or whisky. We discuss the ingredients as well as the process. Like those spirits, you have to jump through the same state and federal bureaucratic hoops. It’s an incredibly long and challenging series of events. We talk about it, as well as some of the ways our Commonwealth is making it a bit easier which should result in a spirits boom similar to the ones we’ve seen with wine and beer.
“For our rums we use the highest grade molasses..it’s more like an evaporated sugar cane juice…sometimes referred to as sugarcane honey…it’s super sweet and flavorful in the positive sense…we have almost completely uncooked evaporated juice so we don’t get a lot of those bitter sulphery aromas…”
Did you know there was a distilling “incident” in Woolen Mills in 1983? What is carrot vodka? What’s the difference between grape vodka and grappa? Can you make rum from sorghum? What liqueur collaboration is in development with a local coffee roaster? What local citrus does he use in his orange liqueur, one you may not know about? Could absinthe happen in Virginia? What research did he do before starting? We cover it all!
Are you a home bartender with no outlet for your passion? Create a cocktail using Vitae Spirits! Entries are due September 4th. Details below and on the Vitae Spirits website.
You can find Vitae Spirits in many Virgina ABC stores and its cocktails in many local restaurants. Maps for both can be found on the website. Of course, you can also visit the tasting room, take a tour, enjoy a specialty cocktail, and purchase a bottle to take home.
Ian founded Vitae the same year as Edacious. In my early days, I recorded at In a Flash Laser which just happened to be upstairs. It’s been so rewarding to see Vitae’s development. To finally see the finished tasting room just yesterday when I recorded? Wonderful. Get yourself there ASAP and enjoy all of your favorite local craft spirits as part of Virginia Craft Spirits Month. Cheers!
SHOW NOTES – Links to resources talked about during the podcast:
- Jake Busching Wines – The most recent “Food I’m Forking”. Get you some! It’s that good.
- Help Our Charlottesville Community Recover – Please consider donating to this cause, supporting victims of last weekend’s violence. Thank you.
- Resist. Persist. – Brian Ashworth of Ace Biscuit and Barbecue clashes with Nazis in his restaurant on Sunday. Eater has the story. Bravo Brian!
- When Scientists Give Up – Why did Ian become a distiller? Read on! Great article.
- Montedomaine Petit Verdot Grappa – a Virginia-made grappa, pulled from ABC shelves due to low sales. Come on Virginia! Grappa is great!
- Spirits Lab – Forage sounds amazing. I will be searching for this one immediately!
- Help Scotty Recover – My best friend has Stage 3B colon cancer. Bills are piling up. He can’t work. Can you help? Share! Donate! No amount is too small. Thank you and BIG LOVE to everyone who donated and shared the Big Love Bake Sale and Big Love Birthday! Next up? Tee shirts! Look for them soon.
- Subscribe to This Podcast. Stay Edacious! – Come on, after this episode? You know you want to. Subscribers get new episodes instantly, while non-subscribers have to wait a few hours or days depending on the iTunes gods. Never miss a chance to be edacious!
- Subscribe to Edacious News – Never miss a food event in our area! Learn about regional and national food stories so you can stay edacious!
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