It may be a mixed blessing, but Michigan, the state that churns out sedans and pickups, has begun to churn out a great deal of booze. Blame it on Detroit’s economic woes if you will, but America’s oven mitt has more licensed distilleries (33) than any state not named New York (43), California (44) or Washington (53). The number is growing rapidly, and with good reason: In 2008, state legislators lowered the fee for small distillers and legalization distillation of non-fruit based products. Hello whiskey. Hello vodka.
“This new law is the main reason so many craft distilleries have been formed in Michigan in recent years,” says Coppercraft Distillery founder Mark Fellwock. “Michigan is rich in agriculture supply and the products that we are producing are industry leading.”
One of the unique aspects of distilling in Michigan is that the license allows distillers to sell the products they make right on the premises. For entrepreneurs like Fellwock, of who works out of Holland, Michigan, that means making tourist bucks on top of their booze business, which significantly changes the bottom line – especially when visitors go heavy on the cocktails made on site using the diverse liquors coming off the line. “We are currently making all of our own vermouths, triple secs, ginger beers, bitters and many other products,” Fellwock points out. The brand doesn’t avoid fruit – Applejack is a mainstay - but it’s branching out aggressively.
“Currently, we have right around 250 barrels of bourbon aging, which we will release this upcoming summer after two years in a 53 gallon barrel.” Coppercraft’s Bourbon uses 95% locally grown grains and will soon shifting be to 100%. The brand is also working on a gin, a rum, and multiple vodkas.
The legal change won’t overhaul the local booze scene overnight, but it has already made the state a better destination for discerning drinkers. Skip wine country and head north this winter. They’ve devised a way to stay warm.
Photos by Facebook/Coppercraftdistilley