Take a look at the paperwork involved, and you know it’s not a small thing to be certified organic these days. Little by little, farmers are taking the steps to grow and raise products without synthetic fertilizers, artificial pesticides, growth hormones, feed additives or genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). When you’re a distillery and you’re shopping around for grain that is certified organic, the search takes a little doing.
But that’s okay by the folks at Journeyman Distillery.
Based in quaint Three Oaks, Journeyman uses 1,300 pounds of grain a day, and that will increase significantly with the addition of their new still, which should be up and running by the end of summer. With a cost difference of nearly three times as much to use organic ingredients — there’d better be a good reason.
“First, it means we’re usually working with smaller or family-owned farms. Founder, Bill Welter’s family are farmers in Central Indiana and we currently have 80 acres of their family farm that has been certified organic for eventual use in our whiskeys,” said Nick Yoder, head of marketing and distiller at Journeyman. “It also signals something to the consumer. But in the end, for us, we want to use the best ingredients to make the best spirits.”
The new still is only part of a large, but equally organic, bit of growth. Journeyman broke ground in April 2015, when it purchased the other half of their current building, the historic Featherbone Factory in downtown Three Oaks. With the addition, the distillery will be five times larger, including a second production facility. This will bump production from 25 gallons of spirits a day to 100 gallons a day.
“We still wanted to keep things close — even keeping our expansion within our current location,” said Yoder. “We want to continue to grow based on what we can produce, not what we can source. Every drop of whiskey is going to be made right here.”
While Journeyman manages a delicate transition in its production levels, the distillers are looking forward to an increased capacity to experiment — one of their favorite pastimes. Journeyman has partnered with breweries, bars and industry folks in the past, including Grand Rapids barstillery, Flat Landers, for which Journeyman actually produces the gin, white whiskey, vodka, rum and bourbon used in Flat Lander’s unique cocktails. Even this partnership seems to abide by some organic code of conduct and was arrived at face-to-face.
“We get a lot of people that inquire about doing private labels. We’ve only done a few so far and those are based on the quality of the relationship,” said Journeyman owner Bill Welter. “In the case of Flat Landers, Bob Grimes came down and met with us a few times and we really got along with them. Their concept, being a barstillery, is such a unique idea that we’re proud to be a part of.”
As Journeyman continues to grow in size, it takes the changes and even the accolades in stride. It’ll continue to explore its craft humbly, authentically and of course, organically.