WhistlePig expansion plans fuel 2-pronged debate

SHOREHAM, VT -- The very old line about whiskey being great for medicinal purposes led most people to believe that spirits can sterilize anything.

The reality is, not so.

Take the case of entrepreneur Raj Peter Bhakta and his pricey craft whiskey called WhistlePig (another name for a groundhog or woodchuck).

He began bottling his Canadian-distilled whiskey at an old 500-acre dairy farm here several years ago and has achieved quite a reputation within the trade, but isn't winning over all state officials and neighbors with his plans for changes.

He wants to begin making whiskey on-premises from rye grown on the farm. That has set off a debate on whether his property -- located near Lake Champlain opposite Ticonderoga, NY -- still qualifies as a farm, which would subject it to different developmental and operational regulations than those governing other businesses.

 In addition, some neighboring fruit and berry growers are concerned about the possible threat of whiskey mold, a black fungus that flourishes in areas with lots of moisture, such as distilleries.

Vermont Public Radio has a thorough report on the controversy you may find of interest.

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