Hello, Al Wood here. As the owner of this company I'm excited that you're taking time to learn about Wood's Vermont Syrup Company, and I thank you for doing so in advance. There are two different stories on this page. The first one is about this company and how it came to be, and the second story is about my family. To start, I'm going to tell you about where my company stands today and after that I'll describe to you what led me to this path. I hope you enjoy!
About this company:
As it stands today, the sugarbush has 8,500 taps running on a sap line and vacuum system. We use a reverse osmosis machine and a steam away to cut down our boiling time. About half of our harvested syrup runs directly from the pan into bourbon barrels from Tuthilltown Distillery. The rest of our syrup is used for our other products. The business is operated by just a few people: Me, my parents, my sister, and our friend Sue. I'm able to get my nieces and sons to help sometimes too. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the most important member of my team, and if there's an MVP here, it's the land the trees grow on. What used to be 1000+ acres of land in my family's name has, sadly, shrunk to 54. Despite this, I'm tapping the same trees I was when growing up. My family has been working on this land for at least six generations. Cool, right? Sugaring, as we northerners call it, has always been something taught by one generation to the next. A rich inheritance defined by grit, work-ethic, stewardship, and connection with the Land, made me who I am today. I was taught how to produce maple when I was young by my father and his father.
In 2009, I formally established this company and built a new sugarhouse. It was a step towards making my dream of living off the land come true. Prior to this I had been working an unfulfilling job for a utility company in central Vermont. My parents still lived on the same land they raised me on in Randolph, so I started to wonder how I could utilize that to make an income of my own. Until this point in time, producing maple syrup as a full-time job was something only a handful of people were doing, and the people doing it had massive operations; tens or hundreds of thousands of taps, multiple sugarhouses, and a lot of crew hands. But I knew two things: I loved making maple and wanted to do something I found meaningful. So, I came to a conclusion. In a world moving away from ancestral traditions and locally focused industries towards futurism and federal farms, I found a special appeal in the possibility of creating self-sufficiency by upholding a tradition my family had been doing for several generations. This was the genesis of Wood's Vermont Syrup Company.
At this point I was keen on distinguishing myself from fellow producers scattered throughout the northeast. Sure, I was making some of the best maple syrup in the state, but I wasn't producing the volume needed to fund the expansions I had in mind. If this was to be a viable full-time enterprise I knew I'd need to create a value-added product. Having discovered my curiosity to see what would come of barrel-aged syrup I approached my friend, Dave, who held connections with beer, wine, and liquor producers. He offered to get me in touch with Tuthilltown Distillers, now known as Hudson Whiskey, about using their barrels for my experiment. After filling a barrel with syrup and waiting several months for it to age l removed the barrel bung. To my delight I smelled something wonderful. A rush of sweet bourbon followed by earthy maple hit my nose. I was thrilled but wasn't sure what would happen next! I tipped the barrel over a bucket and allowed the syrup to drain and along with it came pieces of charcoal, a sign of authenticity. I was unable to wait any longer. I dipped my finger in the syrup and tasted it. Now this, this was something to celebrate over. I had never tried anything quite like it! It was delicious! The flavors were intense, the bourbon pronounced and the maple syrup complimented perfectly. Bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup was born and I knew this was the exact thing I needed to generate a sustainable revenue. To this day Hudson Whiskey and I work together to keep our relationship operating smoothly. They provide freshly emptied bourbon barrels for me to fill with syrup and I return them after 4 months of aging. Whereas I make barrel-aged syrup they make a maple cask Whiskey.
(Dad and I in the Sugarhouse, 2010)
(My grandfather, Arthur, checking the pans, 2000)
(Me, Al, in the new sugarhouse, 2010)