Michigan’s Craft Distilleries Are Setting Their Sights on Bourbon

Proof that the best things require patience


When a new generation of distilleries began popping up around Michigan, the initial focus was on making clear spirits like vodka and gin. “Now that they’ve been around long enough to age dark spirits, we’re seeing some phenomenal results in the whiskey category,” says Dianna Stampfler, executive director of the Michigan Craft Distillers Association.

Many of the spirits are earning medals from competitions. Kentucky-based Fred Minnick, author of Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey (Voyageur Press, $17), has our state on the radar. “Michigan has put enough quality stuff on the market,” he says. “I expect to see a breakout style coming from Michigan in the coming years ... too much talent there for it not to happen.”

Michigan-based Ben Jones, the founder of the bestinbourbon.com site agrees. “We will start seeing a lot more Michigan-based distilleries making a splash … as they start bottling their own bourbon [that’s] been sleeping the last four or five years.”

Good bourbon takes time to produce. There are 37 unique spirits distillers in Michigan, so stay tuned for more. American Fifth, Gray Skies Distillery, and Rusted Crow Distillery and Spirits plan to release their first bourbons in 2018. Meanwhile, check out the current selection.

Fox River Straight Bourbon from Ann Arbor Distilling (annarbordistilling.com), is named for a tributary in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s made from all non-GMO ingredients and aged for two years in new, heavily charred American oak barrels. Then it spends a little time with French oak, which brings in notes of vanilla and a silky mouthfeel.

Butcher’s Cut Bourbon from Detroit City Distillery (detroitcitydistillery.com), pays tribute to DCD’s home in Eastern Market’s Meatpacking District. It is created with corn, rye, and roasted barley, then double-barrel-aged with hand-smoked Michigan northern oak. The resulting bourbon has great character and depth.

Long Road Distillers (longroaddistillers.com) of Grand Rapids makes three distinct bourbons with grain carefully sourced directly from farmers. It’s only available at the distillery, however.

Royal Oak’s Motor City Gas (motorcitygas.com), ages its Belly-Up Bourbon in new American charred white oak barrels for just over two years, and is finished in Caribbean rum barrels. They’re constantly experimenting with limited batches, too.

The Beer Barrel Bourbon from New Holland Artisan Spirits (newhollandbrew.com) takes advantage of the Grand Rapids Brewery’s beer. It’s first aged in new American oak barrels for several years, before a three-month slumber in their popular Dragon’s Milk beer barrels. That leaves biscuit notes and a smooth malt character with full tones of toffee and caramel.

Corktown’s Two James Spirits (twojames.com), produces a spice-forward Grass Widow Bourbon. It has notes of hazelnut and dried raisin due to the Madeira Barrique finishing. The name pays tribute to the Detroit Samter Tabor Co., which made whiskey by the same name before Prohibition.

Mayor Pingree 10-year-old Straight Bourbon’s path was carved by the initial release of Woodward Bourbon from Ferndale’s Valentine Distilling Co. (valentinedistilling.com). Named after the famed Detroit mayor, it comes in a variety of age statements and some limited single barrels. Look for flavors from chocolate and berries to exotic spices.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

A Taste of Paris

Cannelle Patisserie chef Matt Knio’s baked goods are turning up in restaurants and markets across metro Detroit

Mission BBQ Opens in Troy

A new restaurant serves summer favorites with a side of patriotism year-round

New Brewery Alert: Barrel & Beam

The Marquette-based brewery focuses on farmhouse and barrel-aged ales

Shared Plates: September 2018 Winner

Recipe: Harsen's Island Veggie Sandwich

The Return of Home Economics

Across the city, talented chefs, bakers, and all-around do-gooders are finding ways to teach kids how to cook again
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. An Animated Life
    As Rob Paulsen prepares to publish his memoir, the Hollywood veteran and voice behind some of the...
  2. An Hour With ... Teddy Dorsette III
    President, Detroit Black Deaf Advocates
  3. State of the Arts
  4. Gold Standard
    Tucked into an industrial strip in Ann Arbor, a new restaurant offers French fare
  5. A New Noodle Shop on the Block
    Midtown Detroit welcomes Urban Ramen
  6. Drink Beer, Do Good
    Local breweries and pubs jump on the charity bandwagon
  7. In Tune
    Influenced by its storied past, Willis Show Bar sets the tone for a nostalgic sound
  8. Recipe: Roast Boneless Pork Loin With Tart Cherry Chutney
    Executive chef at Ford’s Garage, Darin Thompson’s boneless pork loin marvel
  9. Business Class
    Trim suits, creative layers, and crisp white shirts - Fall's wardrobe essentials are fitting for...
  10. 13th Annual Best of Detroit Party
    On June 29, Hour Detroit brought the Best of Detroit issue to life at the 13th annual Best of...