Over the last seven years, Grand Traverse Distillery has continuously grown to become one of the state’s largest craft micro-distilleries. And, in late September, the distillery opened the doors to a tasting room at the heart of downtown Traverse City.
With a focus on quality products and local grains, owner Kent Rabish opened Grand Traverse Distillery in 2007. The distillery, hidden amongst industrial buildings, first opened as a production facility. At the time of its opening, it was only one of about 30 micro-distilleries in the country.
“Then, about two years ago, the law changed, and our business changed,” stated Rabish.
Hand-crafted and made in small batches, Grand Traverse Distillery has become known throughout the region for its quality. It’s signature vodka, True North Vodka, is made from rye grown in Williamsburg on the Send brothers’ farm and is distilled 37 times. The result is a vodka that is exceptionally smooth. Other products include a cherry vodka, wheat vodka and chocolate vodka along with a variety of whiskey and gin.
And now, customers can experience these Grand Traverse Distillery products before purchasing whole bottles. The downtown tasting room provides customers with the opportunity to sample products and to ask questions.
“Tasting rooms are a way to get the product in front of people,” explained Rabish.
The Traverse City tasting room is in the perfect location to educate the public about the flavor profiles of vodka, whiskey and gin. During my visit, many people stopped to look at the still in display in the window. Some curiously wandered in to investigate.
Customers finding their way to Grand Traverse Distillery is what Rabish aims to accomplish with the tasting room. “99% of customers are not going to come to 3 Mile [Road]. Downtown, it’s easy for them to walk in.”
Upon walking in, customers are greeted by a sophisticated presence that inspires you to drink an upscale cocktail. Customers can browse distillery products, spirits and cocktail mixers or visit the tasting lounge in the back. Unlike a bar, the tasting room serves as a place to expand the pallet.
Customers can take a tasting of three Grand Traverse Distillery spirits or can try a specialty cocktail. Tasting options range from True North Cherry Vodka to Ole George Whiskey, which has been aged for three years. As a dedicated beer drinker, this was new territory for me. The tasting room attendants welcomed questions and were able to offer insight into flavor profiles and the way each spirit is crafted.
So, if you find yourself wandering around in downtown Traverse City, you might want to make your way to the Grand Traverse Distillery tasting room at 215 E Front Street. The distillery also has tasting rooms in Leland and Frankenmuth.