Minnesota Spirits Fest 2018

Minnesota was perhaps a little late to join the swell of craft distilleries in this country. It wasn’t until 2011, when legislation passed significantly lowering the fee to open a distillery, that the state’s own craft spirits boom finally got its fuse lit. It was about time, too as Minnesota has quite a bit to offer a homegrown distillery. With an abundance of different grains, oak for barrels, botanicals, and fruits, it’s a state full of natural resources just begging to be made into booze. Fast forward to 2018, and it seems as if the scene has reached a moment of stability; products have been developed, and are on the shelves of stores and bars, cocktail rooms are open and hopping, and some long-term goals are actually in sight or have even been met.

Which makes the timing of the recent Minnesota Spirits Fest event pretty spot on. Sixteen distilleries set up shop in the Museum of Russian Art and poured spirits and cocktails to a sold-out, presumably thirsty crowd of 300. This great event was put on by the Minnesota Distillers Guild and was sponsored by the very active, enthusiastic, and presumably very thirsty local chapter of Women Who Whiskey. The space, an old church transformed into a museum, was a novel, possibly brave choice from an art conservation standpoint, and gave the event a rather luxurious feel. I will not write at length about the basement gallery, but will say that for a good 30 minutes, I was so truly captivated by the Matryoshka exhibit that I didn’t drink a thing.

Outside of that, however, I spent a fair amount of time drinking. My overall impression of the spirits on offer was one of high quality and successful experimentation. There was a lot of local-ness happening, and not just because the stills are located in state. Those natural resources I mentioned earlier are definitely living up to their boozy potential. Rather than rambling on and on, and getting overly verbose and long-winded and garrulous, I’m just going to mention, in no particular order, a few of the many highlights of the evening…

  • Isanti Spirits‘ Tilted Cedars Gin is always a pleasure, as is their Rye and Sunken Bobber Bourbon. Isanti’s Rick Schneider was excited to point out that his bourbon is now a straight bourbon and both whiskeys are being matured only in full-sized barrels.
  • Dampfwerk Distillery’s absolutely beautiful bottles are full of relatively fresh interpretations of old world brandies and liqueurs, including the standout Helgolander, a medicinal German-style bitter, and the surprising Rabbit in the Rye, a spiced, herbal treat built on a sourced Tennessee whiskey base.
  • Twin Spirits Distillery’s Mamma’s Moonshine is a fairly novel spirit distilled from honey that offered a clean, subtle, smooth take on its base ingredient. Very exciting to learn that owner and distiller Michelle Winchester has been experimenting with several different woods with which to age this one.
  • Du Nord Craft Spirits’ Fitzgerald Gin is their flavorful, macerated take on the London dry style. I also had the chance to try a nearly straight-from-the-barrel, un-labeled bourbon that was pretty damn bold and heralded good things to come as did the news that owner and head distiller Chris Montana is planning on experimenting with some very unusual grains in the near future.
  • I’ll refrain from making any “holy spirit” type jokes…

    Far North Spirits has been a consistent leader in this nascent movement. Along with their excellent estate-grown, grain to glass gins and ryes, they have just bottled their first bourbon, the Bødalen, a vibrant, high-rye balancing act of good distillate and youthful oak.

  • Duluth’s Vikre Distillery has a trio of really good, really interesting gins lead by their Boreal Cedar Gin. They also have Emily Vikre, their co-founder and “arbiter of taste.” In addition to presiding over the many spirits made at Vikre, Emily has created a line of blended whiskey called Honor Brand. The first release, Hay & Sunshine, is an interesting, well-put-together mix of bourbon, Scotch, and Rye.
  • The Brother Justus Whiskey Company is named after a Benedictine monk who reputedly lived in Stearns County, MN during Prohibition and helped many a farmer-turned-moonshiner make their stills. This newish distillery has been flying under the radar and has only surfaced very recently. Their Minnesota-grown single malt spirit was surprisingly, pleasantly, sweet and smooth.

All in all, this was an excellent event, a perfect snapshot of where craft distilling is at in the state. It was obviously good to see so many people enthusiastic about home-grown spirits. It was also great to see the camaraderie between the distilleries; there’s a lot of mutual support and admiration happening which can only benefit the scene. I’m definitely looking forward to this becoming an ever-evolving, yearly showcase.




Tattersall Distilling Straight Rye Whiskey – Review

*Sincere thanks to Tattersall Distilling and Steve Gill for the sample and information.

The inspiration for Tattersall Distilling’s Straight Rye Whiskey is the nearly extinct Monongahela Rye style that begin life in the late 1700’s along the Monongahela River in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Monongahela style was defined by its heavy use of rye, a crop which farmers had an abundance of, but initially no real means of efficient transportation. So, often faced with a surplus, the Northern European settlers of the area did what they always did, they brewed it and they distilled it. Corn was not yet a common crop in the region, so the whiskeys of this time were usually almost all rye with perhaps a bit of malted barley to aid in fermentation. Thus, with its very high rye content, Monongahela ryes were known to be more robust, and grain forward, often quite young, and brash compared to the milder Maryland style rye.

Tattersall co-founders Dan Oskey and Jon Kreidler started dreaming about creating a rye shortly after they began dreaming about creating the distillery. It’s a spirit that they say has been in the plan since day one. Tattersall’s lineup is diverse and numerous compared to most craft distilleries, but most of their stuff goes from the still to the bottle in a relatively short amount of time. This straight rye whiskey on the other hand has taken over two years to create. It is a decidedly Minnesotan product, and while it’s not the first to showcase its local-ness, it is another important demonstration of how much potential the state has to be a unique distilling powerhouse. The grain was grown and harvested from a single farm located in Cambridge, MN, fairly close to the Twin Cities. The spirit was aged in casks made in Minnesota by Black Swan Cooperage from Minnesota-grown oak. The mashbill for this whiskey is 85% rye and 15% malted rye. The use of malted rye is going to produce a different, possibly heavier flavor, and may also help a bit in fermentation. Tattersall’s Straight Rye has been aged for two years in 30 gallon barrels. This initial run (around 2,000 bottles) will only be available in Minnesota with other markets getting in on the action when a larger second batch is comes out in the fall.

The Nose:  Sweetness and grain. The sweeter side is Demerara sugar, tangerine peel, cherry cola, and baked apples with cinnamon. The rye is strong, sturdy and upfront, but not overbearing with toasted grains and rye crackers. Behind that are notes of roasted walnuts, unroasted coffee beans, and a little burnt sugar. There’s a beguiling herbal quality as well, dried herbs and subtle hint of damp, mossy rocks. The oak is present, but not too strong with allspice, vanilla bean, clove, and a faint hint of aniseed.

The Palate:  This has a really nice, creamy mouthfeel. More dark sugars early along with cherry cough syrup, cola, and blood orange. Roasted salted nuts. and baker’s chocolate lead to more strong, integrated rye – toasty grains with herbal, greenish overtones. The oak is stronger and more prominent throughout the palate with astringent, grippy tannins, sharp-edged wood, vanilla bean, Vietnamese cinnamon, young ginger, and a little clove.

The Finish:  That dark sugar and cola sweetness is quickly taken over by the tannic oak, and toasted, herbal rye. Peppery toasted grain lingers the longest.

Thoughts:  This grew quite a bit on me in the span of one glass. Initially, it seemed young and reserved, but as it quickly opened up, it became much more expressive and complex. Given co-founder Dan Oskey’s lauded career as a bartender/cocktail guru, it should come as no surprise that this is well-executed stuff and really pretty satisfying on several levels. True to style, it’s youthful and brash, but also fairly balanced and smooth. It certainly holds its own as a straight sipper, is quite nice over ice, and thanks to its strong rye character and high ABV, also makes for a dynamic base spirit in cocktails. Tattersall has picked a style of whiskey that suits both their distillate and, probably, their desire to get a whiskey on the shelves relatively quickly. They could easily have gone the route of so many other craft distilleries and bottled this closer to 40% and priced it for $50 or more. Instead, with its relatively high ABV and relatively low price of around $35, the Tattersall Rye is a rare and special thing in the craft spirit world…a damn good first whiskey that’s well worth the money. Definitely recommended, especially if you’re a Minnesotan.

Tattersall Distilling Straight Rye Whiskey, +/- 2018

50% ABV

Score: 85




Tattersall Amaro – Review

On May 24, 2011, after it had passed both the Senate and the House, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill entitled Chapter 55, HF 1326/SF 918 into law. “Chapter 55, HF 1326/SF 918” might have been a perfectly acceptable name for a bill to politicians and lawmakers, but, obviously, it lacked a bit of punch and clarity for rest of us, which is why it became more popularly known as “the Surly Bill.” Surly Brewing, a forerunner of Minnesota’s craft brewing scene, led a popular, well-supported campaign to change some of the state’s fusty liquor laws so that craft beer producers could sell their products on site. The bill’s passing lead to an explosion of craft breweries and tap rooms, creating one of the more vibrant beer scenes in the country. But that’s not all this piece of legislation created. There was also a small provision that lowered the yearly distillery license fee from $30,000 to $1,000. Suddenly, along with a rampaging beer scene, Minnesota also saw the birth of its own craft distilling movement.

Thanks to co-founder Dan Oskey, Minneapolis’ Tattersall Distillery was one of the more hotly anticipated distilleries and cocktail rooms to open as a result of all that politicking and lawmaking. Oskey is a renowned bartender in the Twin Cities, having created hugely successful bar programs at the Strip Club and the always fun Hola Arepa. Along with that, he’s also created a clever retail kit for making homemade bitters and a successful, delicious line of sodas. Tattersall’s line up is prolific, diverse and is obviously the product of a veteran bartender who really wants to make his own versions of everything he uses. While most new, small distilleries followed the perfectly acceptable path of producing and selling maybe two to five products, often gins, vodkas, young whiskeys, and maybe even something a little less traditional, Tattersall currently has over 20 different spirits and liqueurs on their roster. These are available not only in the distillery’s Northeast neighborhood taproom and throughout the great state of Minnesota, but are now distributed in 15 other states as well.

In the coming months, I hope to profile this distillery in more detail, and continue to take a look at their diverse line. For now, to start with, here’s the Tattersall Amaro, the distillery’s take on the classic Italian herbal liqueur.

The Nose:  Herbal and sweet. Quite a bit of licorice-esque notes, wormwood, star anise and candied fennel. The sweetness is full of dark, floral honey, a little elderflower, and perhaps even a touch of light molasses. There’s a nice integrated gentian bitterness throughout. In the background, there are subtle notes of lemon verbena and cardamom,

The Palate:  Sweet, but less syrupy and cloying than other amari. Star Anise, fennel, clove, dark floral honey are strongest, with a little citrus zest as well. Just as complex as the nose, perhaps even a little weightier and earthier. The gentian from the nose does carry over nicely. There’s a tannic quality about this, a “dryness” that’s very appealing.

The Finish:  Gentian, light mint, more star anise and licorice candies, along with a little clove, and a slight tannic grippy-ness at the last.

Thoughts:  Quite good. This is a relatively lighter amaro, not so much in its complexity and flavor profile, but in its concentration and in its sweetness. The relative toned-down sweetness is definitely welcome. On the other hand, the lighter concentration has occasionally left me wishing this had a bit more punch and strength, especially sipping neat or on ice. That said, I’ve really enjoyed playing with the Tattersall Amaro in cocktails, I think that’s where it’s at its best. The reduced sweetness and lighter feel makes it a great supporting character along side gins and whiskeys. Good stuff that has me looking forward to trying other Tattersall bottles.

Tattersall Amaro, +/- 2016

30% ABV

*Bonus serendipitous cocktail! Perhaps my favorite use of this so far came in a what-the-hell-why-not riff on a Boulevardier using Tattersall Amaro, Campari, and the Penna Dutch Malt Whiskey from New Liberty Distilling. Herbal and complex, with surprising coffee and unsweetened cocoa notes, the amaro worked great with the fiery, young roasty malt, and reigned in the sugary side of things. I’ve made more than a few of these in last couple of months.





Bent Anchor Irish-Style Poitín – Review

BentAnchor*Thanks to BC for the sample!

Just for fun, let’s get local and let’s get weird for a moment. Here in Twin Cities, we have a great fish and chips/Irish pub food place called The Anchor Fish & Chips. We also have a fine place called Bent Brewstillery which, as you might guess, is a taproom, craft brewery and craft distillery all rolled into one. Apparently, one evening (or it could have been one morning, what the hell, you never know with these fish & chips and brewstillery types) a meeting of these two seemingly disparate minds came together and hatched a plot to collaborate on some fairly unique booze.

Bent Brewstillery took a boatload of Anchors’ high quality potato peelings, fermented them in a wash with a little molasses, and distilled it all into an Irish Poitín. Poitín, meaning “little pot” in Gaelic and pronounced pot’-cheen, is basically Irish moonshine. It’s a white spirit historically illicitly distilled from that all-important tuber, the potato. Before the “craft” distilling movement began, Poitín had pretty much been relegated to a minor cultural curiosity outside of Ireland, and perhaps even inside. With the advent of the craft distilling and smaller distilleries looking back at more obscure forms of hooch, it’s made a small comeback. Now, admittedly, I don’t know Poitín from Shinola. The only other Poitín I’ve tried was some fairly jagged, shattering stuff purchased at Bunratty Castle near Limirick, but I thought a local mash-up as odd-sounding, yet oddly logical as this was worth a try. Luckily, my friend Bill came through with a bit Bent Anchor’s Irish-Style Poitín.

The Nose:  Hot. A little sweet, and a little sour. Along with some earthy, faintly potato-esque moments, there’s a bit of light brown sugar, and a faint hint of teriyaki(?!). If you ever had the inclination to barely wash a raw, un-peeled potato, sprinkle some powdered sugar on it…and then take a big bite, this would seem to be along those lines.

The Palate:  Hot…but actually not debilitatingly so. This is surprisingly smooth. Lots of confectioners sugar, little to none of the faint sourness from the nose, and a nice subtle nod to the tubers that made this tick.

The Finish:  Fast. More powdered sugar with gentle burnt sugars lingering the longest.

Thoughts:  I don’t really have any reference point for this kind of thing. I didn’t know I needed a new way to enjoy potatoes, but I guess now I’ve got one. Bent Anchor Irish-Style Poitín was certainly fun to try, and I suppose I was pleasantly surprised at how drinkable it actually is. While the flavor profile leans much more towards sugared notes, there are enough hints of those potato peelings to keep things interesting. Definitely an entertaining collaboration from some good local folks.

Bent Anchor Irish-Style Poitín, +/-2015

40% ABV

Far North Spirits – Profile and Interview

FNS_logo_Skane_lockup_grayNow that I’m a resident of the great state of Minnesota, I thought I’d show a little local pride by profiling a new Minnesota distillery. Tucked way the hell up there in the hinterland-ish, northwest corner of the state, not far from the small town of Hallock, Far North Spirits broke ground in the Spring of this year and is poised to be one of the northern-most distilleries in the U.S. In the last couple of years, the craft distilling movement has gone from being a burgeoning trend to what is today a delightful, occasionally delicious, full-blown epidemic. It’s become far easier to open a distillery in pretty much any town in the county. Laws have been loosened, nobody wants to drink rail cocktails anymore, and locavore foodies are feeling good (and smug) about boozing again. With any kind of movement like this, at some point the explosion is always followed by the real contenders separating themselves from the pretenders. We haven’t reached that point yet. To be sure, there are some great craft distilleries out there, but there are also some that need a little help. There are also some that are just downright full of shit. There seem to be quite a few “craft” brands that imply small-scale distilling but in reality are actually just bottling and labeling juice they’ve purchased from a large-scale commercial distiller…most likely the large-scale commercial distiller located in Indiana. Slapping a label on a bottle can’t really be called a craft…sure, there might be some skill to it, to get it on straight and all, but it’s not a craft. Many true craft distillers are also quite vocal about trying to control as much of their own process as they can, and often this unfortunately leads to rather inflated claims of doing everything from “grain to bottle”. It’s only on very rare occasions that you find a distillery actually growing their own grain, processing it, fermenting, it, distilling it, maturing it, bottling it, and skillfully slapping a label on a bottle of it. With their upcoming rye whisky, Far North intends to do just that.

Swanson Rye Harvest 2013
The Swanson Farm 2013 Rye Harvest
Far North Spirits
Far North Spirits

Located on their fourth generation family farm, Far North Spirits is the brainchild of the husband and wife team of Michael Swanson and Cheri Reese. With their respective backgrounds in bio-chemistry and sustainability, and PR and marketing, the couple decided to return to their roots and create a business combining the locally focused, sustainable sensibilities of traditional farming and experimental craft distilling. They are looking to begin production by October of this year, and like many small distilleries do, they hope to release a rye-based gin and a spiced rum by the end of the year to generate some early cash-flow. They will be producing a rye whisky that they intend to release in the Fall of 2014. The rye, wheat, and corn (thankfully, all non-GMO) will all be grown and milled at the farm, while the botanicals for the gin and spices for the rum will be sourced as locally as possible. Believe it or not, there is a bit of Scandinavian heritage in the state of Minnesota, and Far North has taken that family heritage and incorporated it into the naming and packaging, and in the future, hopes to create special editions of traditional Scandinavian liqueurs.

Fairly exciting stuff, if you ask me. As if running a farm and building a distillery wasn’t enough work, Michael graciously took some time to answer a few questions The Casks had for Far North Spirits


The farm has been in the family for a while, but when and why did you decide to start the distillery?

Yes, almost 100 years (1915); the idea started with the desire to live more simply and seasonally. Research on making a finished product with grains from our family farm turned up the old farming model of turning grain into whiskey, which sounded like a helluva lot more fun than scaling up acreage and playing the commodities market. In 2009, while getting my MBA at St. Thomas, I wrote a mini-business plan on making whiskey, seed-to-glass, for an entrepreneurial class. The idea never went away.

What is your background in distilling?

None. Like a lot of craft distillers, we are coming in absolutely new to this process. Strange thing is, everything I’ve learned is useful – the bio/chemistry degree, writing about food/drink, cooking, marketing, not to mention being a farm kid and working with lots of different kinds of equipment. That’s probably been the most helpful because after talking with dozens of distillers (and training with 45th Parallel in New Richmond, WI, Koval in Chicago and Spring 44 in Denver), I’ve realized that they’re a lot like farmers. Everyone has their own way of doing this – there’s no wrong way. At the same time, it’s similar to talking with farmers about crop rotation, everyone thinks their way is best. You talk to any one of the 10+ distillers starting up in MN right now, and every one of them is getting there in a slightly different way, but a way that works for them. 

The phrase “grain to bottle” is oft-used, and frankly sometimes abused by craft distilleries, could you take us through, step-by-step, your farming, harvesting, milling, and distilling process?

We are a true seed-to-glass distillery. I sourced each of the seed varieties we’re growing myself — organic corn, winter rye and winter wheat (no GMO). I planted 140 acres of rye on Section 4 of the family farm; 7 acres of corn is growing right outside our distillery door. I plan on harvesting the rye soon – probably by second week of August. From there, once each of the grains have been cleaned and dried by a local seed dealer, I’ll mill them at the distillery, mash, and ferment for 3-4 days, then distill. The rye will be the neutral spirit for the gin and the base of the rye whiskey. The rye whiskey will be mostly rye, with a bit of corn to sweeten it.

Speaking of the rye, are you using a particular variety of rye and what are its distinct qualities?

We started with a variety called AC Hazlet. This is a winter rye, and I chose it based on yield, winter hardiness, and resistance to lodging (stands up well, literally, against the wind and rain – ed.). It’s a bit shorter in height than older varieties of rye, and this is primarily what helps with the lodging. There are dozens of rye varieties, and I’ll likely give a few of them a try next year and see how they like it on our ground.

Not knowing much about farming (ok, not really knowing anything), how much distilling capacity does your grain crop allow? Are all the crops used solely for the booze-making?

We’re only using a fraction of the family’s 1,500 acre farm for the distillery operation. One can make a surprising amount of booze from a small amount of grain. I’ll use approximately 25 bushels of grain (about 1,500 lbs) per 500-gallon mash. If yields are average, I calculate that I can produce all the grain I can distill in a year on less than 100 acres. And you can only distill grain from the current year – keeping it longer can reduce your alcohol yield. I’ve already had other distillers ask me if I’ll have any extra rye this year, and it looks like we will so we’ll either sell the excess to other distillers, or on the open commodities market.

What type of still(s) are you using and what is the distillery’s capacity?

We’re using one 500-gallon and one 50-gallon copper pot stills custom-made by Vendome Copper and Brass Works in Louisville, Kentucky. We’ll start by producing around 8,900 proof gallons, or 4,700 cases. Our capacity without additional expansion is around 19,000 proof gallons, or around 10,000 cases.

When will the first spirit be run?

Legally, we can’t run until we get our Distilled Spirits Permit (DSP). We can purchase equipment and set everything up, but we can’t operate any of it until the permit is in place. That will likely take place in early September if the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau – ed.) grants us our permit according to schedule.
Now that said, one can do a significant amount of experimentation that doesn’t involve direct distilling. Infusions of spices and botanicals can be done using high-proof neutral spirit (Everclear), or high-proof rum. This gives a significant amount of information about flavor and blending characteristics. For the gin, I’ll be distilling each of my botanicals separately, and then blending them together to make the final product. This process is more time-consuming, but I think it yields a superior gin. When you talk about botanicals you’re talking about plants after all, and this represents a multitude of variability. Location, seasonal effects, environmental changes, etc. Distilling the “sweet spot” of each botanical gives you much more control over your product, and helps maintain consistency batch to batch. 
With the spiced rum, I’ll infuse some of the spices separately. Some of the flavor characteristics that I’m looking for show up sooner or later in the infusion process depending on the spice.

What types of casks are you using and where are you sourcing them from?

New American oak. We’ll be sourcing from the Barrel Mill and Black Swan cooperages, both located in Minnesota.

There’s some thought that using smaller casks to decrease the maturation time is “rushing” it, in a way skipping a step, and there’s a resulting lack of complexity, what are your thoughts? Will you be using “full-size” barrels in the future?

I’ll be putting away whiskey in small (10 gallon) and large (30 & 53 gallon) barrels, depending on how long I plan to age it. I don’t think that aging whiskey in a smaller barrel is rushing it, necessarily. As long as the whiskey has a chance to move through the extraction and reaction phases with the wood, and you fermented and distilled it with a smaller barrel format in mind, you have a lovely whiskey from a small barrel. In fact, using a small barrel for a longer aging period can be detrimental; you start pulling flavors out of the wood that you don’t want.

How long will the first run of rye be aged for?

Our first whiskey release will be aged for 12-16 months in 10-gallon barrels. 

Do you plan on holding on to some maturing stocks?

Absolutely. I’ll be putting away whiskies in 30 & 53-gallon barrels for longer aging. I plan on releasing “straight” whiskies in the future, and this requires a minimum of 2 years per TTB regulations.

Being that far north, with the long, cold winters, and shorter but potentially quite hot summers, what challenges do you foresee the climate having on distilling and maturation and likewise, do you see any advantages?

Well, the climate has a lot more challenges to farming than distilling! In fact, there are some distinct advantages for distilling. The temperature swings from season to season actually help the aging process – the expansion and contraction of the barrels allow for greater interaction between wood and whiskey, yielding a greater depth of flavor. For this reason, our aging room is not climate controlled.
Distilling and agricultural production complement each other quite well, if you think in terms of energy flows. In agriculture, a short summer means that you “make hay while the sun shines” (harness the available energy for plants). You really have to have your act together to get the most out of the growing season – there are narrow windows of opportunity to plant, cultivate, and harvest each crop. In distilling, the energy flows are “flipped”. Distilling equipment produces quite a bit of heat, and ramping up production during a long, cold winter means that you can treat that heat as an asset rather than a waste stream. 
Winter is also a traditional time for reflection, and I think it leads to greater creativity as we ponder future recipes.

Do you have any role models/mentors/idols that have inspired you along the way?

Definitely. I’ve been particularly inspired by Bill McDonough, whose book Cradle to Cradle was very influential to me. In fact, it played a large part in my not going to medical school, and pursuing a career in corporate sustainability instead. But over the years, again and again I would find myself thinking about our family farm, and I had to admit I was the most enthusiastic about experimenting with sustainable agricultural practices. We’re planting native prairie grass and wildflowers both as decoration as well as discharge water processing around the distillery. If all goes well, I’d like to expand the native prairie areas around the distillery. I like the idea of reverting some of our farmland back to the prairie that existed here prior to the late 1800’s. During our time in the Twin Cities, I developed a real respect for Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant, and talking with him and tasting the fantastic things he could do with local ingredients was a revelation. Dave Pickerell has also been inspiring, and his “own your backyard” approach to product development has fit perfectly with what we’re doing with the farm.

Outside of your own, of course, what’s your favorite whisky? Gin? Rum?

Whiskey: Toss-up between Whistle Pig and Hillrock Estate
Gin: Right now it’s dead even between Leopold Bros American Gin and Grandten Distillery’s Wireworks Gin
Rum: Tough one! Lately I’ve been liking some Demerara rums like El Dorado, but I’m particularly fond of Montanya Rum (Colorado) and Folly Cove (Ryan & Wood – Gloucester, MA). 10 Cane as well.

Favorite music to distill by?

After I run the first few batches, I’ll send you a playlist. There will also be a separate playlist for the barrels (I plan on playing them music during the day to keep them company).

Favorite book to read whilst drinking whisky on a cold Winter night?

The winter months of Verlyn Klinkenborg’s The Rural Life.

In this land of 10,000 lakes, which one is your favorite?

I practically grew up on Lake of the Woods. In particular, Whitefish Bay is my favorite part of the lake – the water is clearer, and the scenery is more dramatic. In fact, back when I was in college I used to scuba dive there because the visibility was enough to make it worthwhile. After doing my open water certification while it was snowing (true story), Whitefish Bay was like a dream. But Lake Superior has the sound of the surf, which makes it really hard to choose.

Being that far north, which of the nine and a half months of Winter is your favorite?

My favorite time is from the winter solstice to the 15th of January. Basically I want to see one full moon on the snow, and then I want the whole winter business over with.


Like I said, exciting stuff! The return to the traditional roots of farming and farmhouse distilling is certainly a compelling story. The most recent news from Far North is that their stills have arrived and are being installed. With any luck, that first run of spirit will happen very soon. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more (and tasting more) from these distilling neighbors to the north and I’d like to thank Michael and Cheri for taking the time to talk with me about Far North Spirits.