The Forij Tulsi Rose Gin at Wild Bevy Distilling smells just like the New England coast on a late summer day, when the air is dense with a mixture of beach rose, salty air, and dune grass. It’s no surprise, since Wild Bevy’s founders, Mae and Michael Littlefield, wanted to build their uniquely crafted spirits as an homage to the state where they both grew up.
“Before we purchased equipment or started to build out the space, we knew we wanted to focus on botanical gins inspired by Maine,” says Mae of the Wells, Maine, distillery that opened in 2021. But they wanted to skip the stereotypes—no whoopie pie, blueberry, or lobster anywhere. “We want people to experience the Maine we know with every sip: sunny summers at the beach, days spent building forts in the woods, and the fresh air at the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere.”
The botanicals in that delicate gin include a healthy dose of wild-foraged rosa rugosa, the fragrant, bright-pink flowers that grow with abandon along the coast just a few miles from this stylish distillery. And the couple knew exactly where to gather those blooms, which are considered invasive. “There’s a cluster of islands off the coast near us—we have been boating out there for years,” Mae explains. “We got engaged there, and we take our kids there,” making it an ideal spot to forage ingredients for an incredibly personal business that turns out to also have mass appeal: Just out of the gate, Wild Bevy’s Tulsi Rose Gin took home a double gold in the 2022 New York World Wine and Spirits competition.
That award-winning offering is part of a line that also includes a gin elevated with sea kelp, locally foraged white pine and juniper, as well as two bourbons and a vodka. Currently, as the business wends its way through myriad liquor laws, all of its products are available exclusively at the distillery, tucked somewhat incongruously between landscaping companies and auto body shops along an unlikely stretch of Route 9. But that location, less than 45 minutes from the Massachusetts border, is just one more piece of the couple’s journey. Before finding new life as Wild Bevy’s distillery and tasting room, it held a warehouse for the couple’s construction company, Polished Concrete Solutions.
When they sold that business in 2019, the Littlefields found themselves with a plot of land and a rare opportunity for reinvention. Ever since college, when Mae won design awards for an alcohol brand she created for a class project, the pair had batted around the idea of mixing her marketing, design, and brand development expertise with his experience in project management, construction, and heavy equipment to build a craft spirit brand. And with the sale of their business, the time had arrived.
“We are both creators and makers, and wanted to get back to our roots . . . to build a product from scratch in a way that supports the things we believe in,” Mae recalls. Things like patronizing local businesses. The distillery’s retail outlet sells Maine-made products to enhance cocktails, like mixers from Vena’s Fizz House in Portland. Locally farmed sea kelp and sea salt give the couple’s Forij Slacktide Pine gin—named for that time of day when the tide is turning—an earthy, briny quality that melds beautifully with notes of hand-foraged white pine and juniper.
“Foraging is definitely my happy place,” Mae says. “I don’t get to do it nearly as often as I would like because the seasons are limited, but to know that things we pulled from nature are actually going into our product feels really good.”
It hasn’t been all tripping through forests and smelling the roses, though. Using the skills from their concrete business, the couple designed and built the distillery from scratch, with help from friends and family. They even put together their sophisticated Kothe hybrid column still themselves, although that part was unplanned. The massive German distillation setup arrived in about a hundred pieces in early 2020, with no instructions. Perhaps you can guess what comes next: A global pandemic shut down travel, so the experts who were supposed to assemble the still could not fly in from Germany.
“It was like getting a Ferrari disassembled,” Mae recalls with a laugh. “We didn’t even have IKEA-style pictures.” Using Michael’s detail-oriented construction background, combined with the couple’s Yankee can-do mentality, they laid out all the pieces across the floor of the distillery, numbered them, and worked virtually with teams in Germany and Chicago to assemble the massive 2,000-liter still. Because it’s the heart of their operation, the couple named the still Hazel, after Mae’s maternal grandmother, who loved sombrero cocktails (a blend of vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream or milk) and convivial company.
That shining still is on full display through windows in the tasting room, where guests can enjoy tasting flights, craft cocktails, and oftentimes meals and snacks from a resident array of food trucks. Most weekends you can also find live music—and you might even find arts and crafts for kids and adults too.
All that culture plays into the distillery’s name and the couple’s hopes for their new business. The word “bevy” means a group of birds, especially quail, and is also shorthand for a drink. “For us, Bevy refers to a group of like-minded people, a community, a family, those looking to commune and enjoy one another’s company,” Mae says. “I just really want be a place for people to come together, where artists and musicians can share their crafts.” And take home a bottle or two of something delicious, because the tasting room is just an introduction.
“I want you to feel like you can go home and make lovely drinks for yourself, your family, and your friends. Because the tasting room is not where the experience ends—it is more or less where it begins.”
596 N. Berwick Rd., Wells, Maine, 207-251-8868, wildbevy.com
Open Thursday through Sunday, with expanded hours planned for the warmer months.