A GROWING NUMBER OF ARTISANAL DISTILLERIES CALL MICHIGAN HOME. These small-batch operations, led by passionate entrepreneurs, are crafting award-winning products. Some offer tours, tastings, cocktails and space to host private functions.
If high-quality craftsmanship fits your brand image, here’s where to celebrate your next event.
Two James Spirits, Detroit
Two James Spirits opened in 2013 in Corktown and is the first licensed distillery in Detroit since Prohibition. "We didn’t anticipate the level of crowds that have come in on the weekends," says Andrew Mohr, marketing director. "It’s been fantastic."
"The tasting room is beautiful and it’s the perfect space for a group of about 60," he adds. Include the 6,500-square-foot production area and the potential guest list jumps to 100.
Tours last 60 minutes and explore the building, mash tub, still, fermentation and finishing tanks, bottling machine and barrel storage racks. They end with tastings of bourbon syphoned from the Madeira finishing cask, whiskey from the still, gin and vodka, Mohr says.
Private rentals are most readily available on Mondays and Tuesdays; other days also can be arranged.
Valentine Distilling Co., Ferndale
Award-winning vodka, gin and whiskey are crafted in this 4,700-squarefoot former bump shop of Packard Motor Car Co., built in 1928. Exposed brick, a copper bar, red velvet settees and vintage décor give the 60-person tasting room a Prohibition-era vibe. "Visually, it’s stunning," says Nick Brancaleone, vice president of retail sales.
Condé Nast used the entire building, including the production area with copper and stainless distilling equipment and wooden aging barrels. (Use of the production area expands the potential guest list to 150.)
Guests had an all-inclusive experience: They toured distilling, bottling, labeling and packing processes; enjoyed fresh, tasty cocktails made with all-local ingredients; and received packaged bottles to go, Brancaleone says.
In 2014, the distillery is moving production to a larger, nearby building that can accommodate up to 400 people.
Northern Latitudes Distillery, Lake Leelanau
Northern Latitudes Distillery boasts massive wood beams, black-ash bar tops and a 3,000-square-foot tasting room.
The custom-built, German copper still sits where "everybody can see everything," says co-owner Mandy Moseler. That includes her husband, Mark, hard at work distilling spirits and liqueurs. Mark explains the distillation process to the entire room, which seats 25 and accommodates 40 for strolling receptions.
Tastings include handcrafted limoncello, ginger root and Mackinac Island fudge liqueurs; rum; gin flavored with local botanicals; and vodkas distilled from Michigan red wheat and sugar beets and flavored with horseradish, Mandy says. Cocktails also are served. Private rentals are available after hours only June to October, with more flexibility November through May, Mandy says.
Grand Traverse Distillery, Traverse City
The only 100 percent grain-to-bottle distillery in Michigan, Grand Traverse Distillery has won many awards for its spirits, says Perry Harmon, the distillery’s spirits ambassador.
The microdistillery holds private events at its Traverse City production facility and tasting room, where up to 60 guests can learn how spirits are made and enjoy a rotating menu of 12 seasonal cocktails. It’s a popular excursion for groups attending meetings at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa.
Tours last 30 minutes and showcase the distillery’s milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling, aging and bottling of local corn, wheat and rye. Grand Traverse Distillery makes four vodkas, five whiskeys, gin and rum; it’s developing three new whiskeys.
Journeyman Distillery, Three Oaks
One of the few certified-organic distilleries in the country, Journeyman Distillery crafts rum, gin, whiskey, vodka and specialty spirits in a former corset-and-buggy-whip factory dating from the 1880s.
University of Notre Dame, Intelligentsia Coffee and Whirlpool all have used Journeyman’s 2,500 square feet of private space, which accommodate 115 for dinner and 150 for strolling events. A glass wall overlooks the still, tanks and aging barrels; exposed brick, pipes, cement floors and barn-wood accents create a modern feel. Tours explore Journeyman’s organic approach, distillation process and factory history, and end with flights of white spirits or whiskey, says Brand Ambassador Tiffany Daugherty.
"Lots of effort goes into making premium spirits," she says, so "we make everything fresh" for handcrafted cocktails. Mixes and syrups are made from scratch; produce comes from local farmers.