Of all the states in the greater Midwest, none has more distilleries than Michigan.

Since 2008, when the Michigan Alcohol Control Commission made several major changes to the state’s distillation law, the industry has been growing at an ever-increasing rate. According to the American Alcoholic Crafts Association, there were 78 distilleries in the state in 2019.

One of the things that makes the Michigan spirit unique is the emphasis on the ingredients of Michigan, says Tammy Coxen, co-author of the Michigan Health Book: Festival of cocktail culture and artisanal distillers. This way, a ton of distilleries get their grain a few kilometers away from [the distillery].

Michigan is a vast and diverse country that produces a wide range of alcoholic beverages, from Montmorency cherry liquor to aquavit. Coxen says if she had to choose a ghost to embody Michigan, it would be gin.

We see distilleries in Michigan doing some very interesting things, she says, from the seasonal gins at Ann Arbor to the MichiGINs at Michigin Long Road Distillers, flavored exclusively by Michigan botanists, including juniper berries.

 

But what if she can see two ghosts? Rye. Especially bottles made of state rye. Examples include Two James, Traveler and Grand Travers, and the novice Mammoth Distilling, who works with hereditary ray stems.

But what really sets the state roasting house apart is a strong sense of community, says Cox.

They are so creative and passionate about their work, and they are willing to share it, she explains. They want people to know how they do it and why they are so proud of their product.

Here you’ll find nine remarkable distilleries in Michigan to look out for during the next bottling process.

Ann Arbor Winter gin distillery and tasting room Photo by Rob Cleveland

Distilling in Ann Arbor: This boutique distillery transforms Michigan’s agricultural raw materials into unique spirits such as seasonal gins, Violetta Absinthe and Fox River Michigan. The latter consists of a mixture of four cereals grown in the same state.

High background fever: Located in Traverse City, it is the oldest microdistillery in the state and has been in operation since 2007. Grain purchased from the Sand Brothers’ farm, located just 10 miles from the Grand Travers factory, is distilled from grain to bottle to make alcoholic beverages, including vodka, gin and rye whisky.

Iron fish : This rural distillery in the northwestern part of the state focuses on sustainable/organic agriculture and the preservation of the local water supply, as it is named after the local steelhead trout. Wheat and rye are grown on 120 hectares, while maize comes from local sources. Look for pure Bourbon and Four Barrels, a mix of Bourbon with rum, cognac, sherry and maple syrup.

Travel virus: Not far from Kalamazu, known for its thriving artisanal beer scene, this distillery produces a variety of whiskey, gins and vodka. The spacious Three Oaks property also includes accommodation and an 18-hole golf course, inspired by Scotland’s famous St Andrews golf course.

Wheat whiskey from Long Road at the cocktail Photo courtesy of Long Road

Distilleries with long routes: Long Road opened in 2015 as the first artisanal distillery in Grand Rapids and has an impressive list of alcoholic beverages. Many of them have local specialties such as MichiGIN or the coffee roasters Amaro Pazzo, Amaro Pazzo and Madcap.

Mammoth distillation: Keep an eye on that Central Lake rookie. With the support of the National Park Service, the distillery grows pink rye on the island of South Manitou, a relic variety known for its whisky production. The expected rye whiskey will not be available for many years, but to satisfy your taste, there is always Cherry Bounce, a liqueur made from sour Montmorency cherries.

New Holland Outdoor Spirits Photo courtesy of New Holland

New Holland: Under the roof of a brewery in New Holland, it makes sense that bourbon, filled with beer and rye kegs, stands out here. Lake Life vodka, which will be produced by the factory in 2019, will also be sold as canned vodka with Seltz water pens.

Aquavit north: This Detroit distillery, known for only one product, with its Danish style aquavit flavoured with cumin and dill, has made waves among bartenders far beyond the state borders.

Bottle of Norden Aquavit on a wooden table Photo courtesy of Norden Aquavit

Two ghosts of James: This distillery, located in the trendy Detroit Corktown, produces a wide range of alcoholic beverages. There’s a locally blended Jamaican rum, Catcher’s Rye, a rye made from 100% Michigan rye, and Johnny Smoking Gun, a corn whiskey filled with smoked Asian tea.

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