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Michigin

Grand Rapids, Mich – Grand Rapids-based Long Road Distillers will release Batch No. 2 of their award-winning MICHIGIN® on Wednesday, November 1 when their doors open at 4 pm. The gin was crafted from 100% Michigan ingredients, starting with water fresh from Lake Michigan, red winter wheat from Heffron Farms and juniper harvested by hand on Beaver Island.

In July, MICHIGIN® was named “Best Gin in the World” and awarded a Double Gold Medal at the Fifty Best Competition in New York City. Just a week after the double-blind tasting award was announced, interest and sales spiked, and the gin sold out. The re-release has been eagerly anticipated not only by the distillery but by retailers and bars throughout Michigan.

“We get calls and e-mails on regular basis asking when we’ll have MICHIGIN® back,” says Jon O’Connor, co-owner and co-founder of Long Road. “It’s definitely helped us reach new consumers and new retail and restaurant accounts.”

MICHIGIN’s base spirit is distilled from red winter wheat from nearby Heffron Farms in Belding, Michigan that was milled on site at the distillery on Grand Rapids’ West Side. It is then redistilled with a variety of Michigan botanicals, including Beaver Island juniper, lemon verbena and fennel from Visser Farms in Zeeland, and Galena hops from the Michigan Hop Alliance in Northport. Batch No. 2 includes the addition of mint from Ham Family Farm in Allendale, Michigan. The resulting gin is unlike any other and offers a fresh taste of Michigan from start to finish.

Juniper is commonly sourced through spice purveyors and originates from Europe or the Pacific Northwest. It was a family connection late last year that tipped off the Long Road team to the abundance of the berry on Beaver Island, the largest island in Lake Michigan approximately 30 miles northwest of Charlevoix. Despite the extra work that goes into producing MICHIGIN®, the team insists the resulting gin and the connection to Michigan farmers and Beaver Island make it all worthwhile.

“Picking juniper is a hard job – but there’s no better place to do it that on the Island,” according to Kyle VanStrien, co-owner and co-founder of the distillery. “It’s one of the most beautiful places in Michigan and the residents of the Island have offered a warm welcome each time our team visits!”

MICHIGIN®, initially, has the familiar aroma of fresh pine and juniper berries, but quickly transitions into scents of cucumber, cedar, and tropical fruits. The rich juniper flavors lead the way at first taste and gradually shift to notes of melon, vanilla, and hints of bright citrus and mint. It’s sure to please in a gin cocktail, on the rocks, or all by itself.

On Wednesday, November 1, the distillery is hosting a MICHIGIN® Release Party to celebrate the new spirit. From 4 pm to midnight, guests will be able to enjoy 50% off gin cocktails and have their first opportunity to purchase bottles of Long Road MICHIGIN® to take home.

Long Road MICHIGIN® will also be available in statewide distribution for licensed retailers, bars and restaurants beginning the week of October 30.

 

long road distillers

Grand Rapids-based Long Road Distillers will release a new seasonal gin, MICHIGIN®, on Monday, February 6 when their doors open at 4 pm. The gin was crafted from 100% Michigan ingredients, starting with water fresh from Lake Michigan, red winter wheat from Heffron Farms and juniper harvested by hand on Beaver Island.

The limited-release MICHIGIN is the first gin to use all Michigan ingredients. While the distillery works regularly with local farms to source ingredients, juniper, the ingredient that distinguishes gin from other spirits, proved challenging to find. “We’ve been planning MICHIGIN since before we opened our doors two years ago, but we were struggling to find a source for Michigan-grown juniper, a non- negotiable ingredient when it comes to gin,” said Kyle VanStrien, Long Road Co-owner and Co- Founder.

MICHIGIN’s base spirit is distilled from red winter wheat from nearby Belding, Michigan, milled on site at the distillery on Grand Rapids’ West Side. It was then redistilled with a variety of Michigan botanicals, including lemon verbena and fennel from Visser Farms in Zeeland, lemon balm from Creation Farms in Beulah, and Galena hops from the Michigan Hop Alliance in Northport. The resulting gin is unlike any other and offers a fresh taste of Michigan from start to finish.

Juniper is commonly sourced through spice purveyors and originates from Europe or the Pacific Northwest. It wasn’t until sitting around a campfire with family over the summer, discussing different botanicals used in Long Road spirits, that a Michigan source for juniper was revealed to VanStrien.

“I mentioned in passing that we were on the hunt for local juniper,” said VanStrien, “and my cousin stopped me and said that it was everywhere on Beaver Island where she grew up!”

Less than a month later, VanStrien and business partner Jon O’Connor were on a small plane headed to Beaver Island, Lake Michigan’s largest island, 30 miles northwest of Charlevoix, Michigan. After a short scouting visit, it was clear finding enough juniper wouldn’t be a problem. The bushes are so prevalent on parts of the island, they’ve become a nuisance for many residents.

During the last week of September, 2016, a dozen members of the Long Road staff set out from Grand Rapids to harvest juniper berries on the island, collecting nearly 200 pounds over a two-day period. The team weathered 15-foot waves on the two-hour ferry ride and chilly rain while picking, but according to O’Connor, the journey was well worth it.

“What started out as strictly a juniper-picking trip turned out to be a great opportunity for our team to work together on a product that epitomizes our core values and our shared vision for crafting world class spirits from local ingredients,” said O’Connor. “Not only that, the finished product is unlike any

other gin on the market due to the unique flavors we were able to extract by using local juniper and distilling it fresh.”

MICHIGIN, initially, has the familiar aroma of fresh pine and juniper berries, but quickly transitions into scents of cucumber, cedar, vanilla and tropical fruits. The rich juniper flavors lead the way at first taste and gradually shift to notes of melon, vanilla, and hints of bright citrus. It’s sure to please in a gin cocktail, on the rocks, or all by itself.

On Monday, February 6, the distillery is hosting a MICHIGIN Release Party to celebrate the new spirit. From 4 pm to midnight, guests will be able to enjoy 50% off gin cocktails and have their first opportunity to purchase bottles of Long Road MICHIGIN to take home.

Long Road MICHIGIN will also be available in statewide distribution for licensed retailers, bars and restaurants beginning the week of February 6.

 

Ann Arbor Distilling

Ann Arbor, MI–One of the great things about modern society is that it gives people a chance to remake themselves, to be what they want to be. The same could be said for buildings. Take 220 Felch Street, located in the Water Hill neighborhood in Ann Arbor. It was built as a fuel oil storage for Amoco in 1924. At other times in its life, it has been a bicycle shop called Cycle Cellar, Kaufman Studios, Ann Arbor Art Center studios, the Pot & Box, and the Daily Grind Flour Mill, which provided the grain for the Wildflour Bakery. Grains are back at the location today, but in the form of distilled beverages.

Last year, Ari Sussman and his partner/co-owner Rob Cleveland opened the Ann Arbor Distilling Company at 220 Felch Street. The tasting room provides thirsty patrons with vodka and gin straight up or in the form of craft cocktails. More alcohol is on the way.

Ann Arbor Distilling

“We make whiskey constantly,” Sussman said. “The earliest batches will be available in early summer, with releases continuing after that.” Sussman said that it can take anywhere from 18 months to more than three years to make a good whiskey. “Most folks are used to the Kentucky style of whiskey, because it’s what they are used to. That takes three years, usually longer. But if you want a different profile in your whiskey, you can do it in less time. It all depends on the character you are trying to achieve.” Sussman has found craft distilleries across the country releasing products that compare favorably to legacy brands of whiskey.

Sussman is no stranger to good liquor made from good products. In his early 20s, he spent time in France working with wine and brandy makers. When he returned to Michigan, he found that no one was making spirits. “Some winemakers made some brandy on the side, but that was it,” he said.

To familiarize himself with the products he had made in France, Sussman bartended at some of the finest places in Ann Arbor: Zanzibar, eve the restaurant, and the Raven’s Club. “The entire time I bartended,” Sussman said. “I had it in the back of my mind to get into manufacturing.”

Then Sussman received a life changing opportunity—to work at the Michigan State University Distillery. He worked with students in the program, and with Kris Berglund, the professor who founded the program. (The program is part of MSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and still provides product and process development consulting for people who want to start distilling operations.) “I was able to learn from the best,” Sussman said of Professor Berglund. After three years, Sussman worked his way up to head distiller.

Now, he is head distiller at his own place. “The more you learn about the distilling regions in the world,” Sussman said. “The more you realize that Michigan is one of the best places for it.” About 90% of his ingredients are local because “we can’t find better product anywhere else– it happens that they are all available locally.” The products used include the cereal grains, apples, and grapes.

All of this alcohol is created on two stills, custom made in Germany. They are designed to be able to make any product from the base ingredients.

“The raw ingredients go in and whiskey, brandy, vodka, gin, rum, and so on is what will come out.”

And the alcohol is flowing out! The cocktail menu includes a Moscow Mule, Pomegranate Fizz, Ginger Gimlet, and Seasonal Shrub. Recently, the distillers use Mighty Good coffee to make a coffee liqueur for their White Russians. Sussman said that they are actively looking for snacks that will help highlight the spirits and pair well with the cocktails.

The future of the Ann Arbor Distilling Company is as bright as the gleam on the stills. “People are going to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of spirits that can be made from local ingredients,” Sussman smiles. The old Daily Grind grain mill is long gone—but the grains shine on at 220 Felch Street.

Folks can try the cocktails and spirits Tuesday-Saturday from 4:00-10:00.

Photography: Steph Harding