Long Road Distillers

Get in the holiday spirit by counting down the days to Christmas with 25 holiday-inspired cocktails you can make at home!

Follow along as Long Road team members make 25 drinks leading up to Christmas – then try your hand at making them at home and impressing all your friends and family over the holidays!

We’ll post a new cocktail and recipe each day, but you can see the whole list on our website at: https://longroaddistillers.com/25-cocktails-of-christmas/

Long Road Distillers


The Case for Drinking Like a Viking

Find out why you should be drinking the Nordic spirit aquavit, which is finally getting some traction in the U.S.

It’s a weekday afternoon, and the wife and I are doing shots.

We’re enjoying thimble-sized glasses full of chilled liquor, accompanied by slices of smoked sausage, pickled herring, and bite-size chunks of bagel with lox spread. In between sips, I’m smacking my lips in savory delight. But we’re not drinking tequilavodka, or even my beloved whiskey.

With that kind of spread and the spicy smell of caraway in the air, it can only be one thing we’re drinking: Aquavit.

No need to be embarrassed if you don’t know anything about aquavit. To be honest, before I started working on this piece, I didn’t know much about the Scandinavian spirit, either. The name comes directly from the Latin term for alcohol, aqua vitae, which means “water of life.” Aquavit is a throwback to the earliest distilling era, when rough, raw booze was spiced with a variety of herbs and seeds to make it more pleasing to drink. In this case, the main flavoring is caraway seeds. Seriously, caraway seeds.

“We always like to explain aquavit to folks as the Scandinavian cousin to gin,” says Jon O’Connor of Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His aquavit won Best of Show at the American Craft Spirits Association competition last January. The big difference, of course, is that the dominant flavor of gin is juniper instead of caraway in aquavit.

And that’s where things get a bit interesting. According to the so-called U.S. Federal Standards of Identity, what makes a distilled spirit legally aquavit in America is caraway flavor.

But as Lexi, the mononymous founder of the Old Ballard Liquor Company in Seattle, put it, “there are hundreds of aquavits in Scandinavia, with vastly different flavors, styles, and applications. For straight shots, the aquavit should be lighter in flavor and well balanced. For food pairing and cocktailing, it should be more robust with an aggressive spice bill or wood to compliment the other ingredients.”

Talk about a perfect storm of opportunity for American distillers. Aquavit easily slots into gin or vodka cocktails that are already popular, like the Bloody Mary. “Why anyone would use any other spirit for that drink in particular is beyond me,” wonders Alan Bishop, the distiller at Spirits of French Lick in Indiana, who makes a pleasantly oily aquavit that does, indeed, taste great in a Bloody Mary.

Most importantly, though, aquavit is a spirit that most Americans know next to nothing about. “It’s a blank slate, a tabula rasa,” says Christian Krogstad, founder of House Spirits in Portland, Oregon, which produces Krogstad Festlig Aquavit. “You make a gin, and they may say, ‘I only drink Tanqueray.’ You make a brandy, and they only drink Hennessy. Aquavit… even if you look at the traditions, they’re so varied.”

Dean Browne, the one-man show at Rowhouse Spirits in Philadelphia, agrees. “It’s really a new thing,” he says. I’ve known Browne for years and he’s the only distiller making aquavit within a two-hour drive of my house. “It’s an exciting category for us. All you need is caraway,” he says. “The rest is up to you. Think of where you can go.” His Nordic Akvavit is made with caraway, dill, fennel seed, and orange peel.

I talked to a new aquavit maker, Robyn Cleveland, who is planning on producing his Norden Aquavit in Michigan early next year. He’s been drinking aquavit for about 14 years, got hooked on the unique flavors, and thinks it could be the next big thing. “We want aquavit to be seen in the same light that gin is currently,” he says. “It’s a spirit with a rich history that should be shared and revered the world over.”

Aquavit could be a big thing, if only people got to know it. It’s an almost uniquely food-friendly spirit, and savory in its own right, with a history and tradition that people can take or leave. The food traditions are particularly appealing with the Scandinavian hygge phenomenon enjoying a mild surge of popularity in America. Lexi is on top of that; Old Ballard isn’t just a distillery, it’s a Nordic deli, where they make their own butter, and cure their own gravlax.

If you’re going to try aquavit, you should probably start with a real Scandinavian one. The most familiar is Aalborg, and that’s what my wife and I were day-drinking: clean-tasting caraway-forward stuff that really did make pickled herring appealing. We had some Linie too, the Norwegian stuff that’s aged in sherry barrels, first in a warehouse and then shipped out to Australia and back to cross the equator (the Linie, the “line”) twice. It was smoother, a bit creamy, but still has a caraway hit.

“If someone has never had aquavit, it’s fun to introduce it to them,” says Krogstad. But “if they’ve never had aquavit, chances are they’ve never had pickled herring.” Krogstad grew up with both, and when he found the market temporarily bare of aquavit about 10 years ago (a perfect storm of importer re-sets and re-positioning took all the imports out at once), it seemed natural for him—a distiller by trade—to make some. How else are you going to enjoy your pickled herring?

“You shouldn’t eat pickled herring without aquavit,” Krogstad insists, straight-faced, as he pours some of his eponymous spirit.

In addition to cured fish, in Scandinavia there is actually a whole aquavit protocol. “The standard way is to pour a small glass and toast among friends,” instructs Jacob Grier, the U.S. ambassador for Aalborg and Linie. But there’s a twist, “there is no clinking of glasses. Instead, each person makes eye contact, says, ‘Skål!,’ drinks the aquavit, and makes eye contact again.” And then, presumably, they have a bit of herring.

Grier is also the founder of Aquavit Week, which runs from Dec. 3 through 9. There are events planned in Portland, Oregon, Minneapolis, Chicago, and D.C. I know I’ll be drinking along with, of course, my smorgasbord spread.

SOURCE: The Daily Beast, Lew Bryson

Long Road Distillers

Grand Rapids Distillery Set to Release Straight Rye Whisky & Nocino Walnut Liqueur

Limited-Release of Long Road Straight Rye Whisky Available Beginning Monday, November 20

Grand Rapids, Michigan – Grand Rapids-based Long Road Distillers will release two new spirits at their distillery on Monday, November 20 beginning at 4 pm. Long Road Straight Rye Whisky and Long Road Nocino, both limited-release offerings, will be hitting shelves just in time for the holidays.

Long Road Straight Rye Whisky is the first straight whisky made in the City of Grand Rapids’ history. Straight whisky, by definition, must be aged at least two years in a new American Oak barrel that has been charred on the inside. Having recently celebrated two years in business, Long Road Straight Rye Whisky was one of the first products distilled at the West Side distillery. The whisky’s mash bill consists of rye from Heffron Farms in Belding, Michigan and malted barley from Pilot Malt House in Byron Center, Michigan.

“We’re excited to share our first straight whisky with the world,” said Jon O’Connor, co-owner and co-founder of Long Road. “Taking the long road meant taking no shortcuts along the way.  Sourcing spirits from other distilleries is a fairly common practice in the industry, particularly with whisky. But we want to be transparent about our spirits and we’re confident that by using locally-sourced ingredients and time-honored distilling techniques, we can create world-class spirits from scratch right here in Grand Rapids.”

Less than 200 bottles of Long Road Straight Rye Whisky will be available, in-house only.

On Monday, the distillery will also be releasing a new, seasonal spirit: Long Road Nocino, a green walnut liqueur. The Nocino starts with a base of locally sourced red winter wheat that is distilled into a neutral spirit. It is then infused with green walnuts and a variety of other spices, such as nutmeg, clove and allspice.

“This is our first adventure into specialty liqueurs, “said Kyle VanStrien, co-owner and co-founder of the distillery. “It’s the perfect holiday sipper and mixes well into lots of classic cocktails. It even pairs nicely with our Rye Whisky – the dual release isn’t a coincidence!”

Long Road Nocino will initially be available in-house only, but will go into statewide distribution beginning December 3.

On Monday, November 20, the distillery is hosting a Rye Whisky and Nocino Release Party to celebrate the new spirits. From 4 to 8 pm, guests will be able to enjoy 50% off whisky and nocino cocktails and will have their first opportunity to purchase bottles of both.


About Long Road Distillers:

Long Road Distillers was born from the belief that making world-class spirits means never taking shortcuts along the way. After becoming the first craft distillery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Long Road Distillers formed relationships with local farmers to bring that mission to Grand Rapids’ West Side neighborhood. Each spirit produced at Long Road Distillers is milled from locally sourced ingredients, fermented, and distilled on-site. The result is an uncompromised lineup of spirits including Vodka, Gin, Whisky and more. Their spirits, along with a handcrafted collection of cocktails and a wide variety of food can be enjoyed at their tasting room on Leonard Street.www.LongRoadDistillers.com

MICHIGIN Long Road Distillers

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – I am sucker for local craft distiller with a great stories. So, last year when I heard about Michigan’s Long Road Distillers, I was all in.

The Grand Rapids-based distillery released the barrel-aged version of their award-winning gin, MICHIGIN® last October. The gin was crafted from 100% Michigan ingredients, including Lake Michigan water, Heffron Farms’ red winter wheat and juniper from Beaver Island.

The distillery decided to set aside a single barrel of OLD MICHIGIN® to release prior to the making of Batch No. 2. The result exceeded expectations, according to Long Road team members.

“The barrel and the gin complimented each other perfectly” said Kyle Shutz, head distiller at Long Road Distillers. “The resulting flavor is a bit more crisp and still has all of the fresh juniper notes that people loved about the original recipe.”

The original Long Road MICHIGIN® was named “Best Gin in the World” at the Fifty Best Competition in July and sold out shortly after the announcement. The second batch of MICHIGIN® was released in early November.

Fewer than 200 bottles of OLD MICHIGIN® was released via the distillery. If you weren’t able to grab a bottle, you can get to taste or enjoy in a cocktail, at the distillery.

Contributed by Rashaun Hall on Liquor.com

Original Aquavit Long Road Distillers

Long Road Distillers Named Best Craft Specialty Spirits Distillery in the United States

Local distillery takes top honors in the USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards Contest

Grand Rapids, Michigan – Internationally acclaimed Grand Rapids distillery, Long Road Distillers, has taken home top honors and was named “Best Craft Specialty Spirits Distillery in the United States” as part of the USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards. Over their two year history the distillery has gained lots of attention for their award-winning, locally-sourced and craft distilled line-up of spirits, including gins, vodkas, aquavits, and whiskies.

Long Road Distillers topped a list of 20 nominees from around the country that were carefully chosen by a panel of American spirits experts. The public then had the opportunity to vote for their favorites over the course of four weeks. The nominating panel included Emily Arden Wells, editor and founder of Gastronomista, Brian Christensen, publisher and editor of Artisan Spirit Magazine, Laura Johnson, founder of You & Yours Distillery and craft cocktail blog Distillerista, and Arthur Shapiro, writer and publisher of Booze Business and author of Inside the Bottle: People, Brands and Stories.

“This is an incredible honor for us,” said Jon O’Connor, co-owner and founder of Long Road Distillers. “We have a ton of respect for every nominee on the list, and some have been leaders in our industry for years. To even have had the chance to compete against them was a big deal for us.”

The distillery is quick to recognize how this award is different from past honors, and credits not only their team members, but also their loyal customers, guests and followers.

“Unlike some competitions where the judging takes place behind closed doors, this contest put the power in the hands of those that enjoy our spirits and have supported us over the past few years,” said Kyle VanStrien, co-owner and founder of Long Road Distillers. “We’re humbled by this win and proud of our team for constantly living our mission of crafting world-class spirits right here in West Michigan!”

Long Road’s no-shortcuts approach to crafting spirits and a dedication to using locally sourced ingredients has earned them numerous honors and awards, as well as international acclaim for some lesser-known spirits categories, such as Aquavit. Their spirits can be found at the distillery on Grand Rapids’ West Side and at over 700 retailers, bars, and restaurants throughout the state of Michigan.

Long Road Distillers

On Monday, December 5, Long Road is partnering with a bunch of our friends (The Peoples Cider Co., Creston Brewery, Two Scott’s BBQ, The Grand Rapids Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild, Local First of West Michigan, and SideCar Studios) to throw the first Annual Grand Rapids Repeal Day Party to celebrate the end of the 18th Amendment and the fall of Prohibition. As a bit of a pre-game to Monday’s party, we thought a bit of background might be useful in understanding the gravity of the Day! So, in honor of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, 21 fast facts about the rise and fall of Prohibition:

  1. The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on January 16, 1919, effectively banning the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.
  2. The State of Michigan had already enacted their own prohibition on liquor 2 years earlier, on May 1, 1917
  3. The Eighteenth Amendment was the crowning achievement of the temperance movement, a social effort against the consumption of alcohol which began in the early 19th Century
  4. The temperance movement was strong in Grand Rapids and Michigan as a whole with the headquarters of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in Petoskey, Michigan and the establishment of a Grand Rapids Chapter.
  5. The National Prohibition Act was enacted to carry out the intent of the 18th Amendment.
  6. It was known informally as the Volstead Act, named after Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who help enact the legislation.
  7. The Volstead Act aimed to: prohibit intoxicating beverages; regulate the manufacture, sale, or transport of intoxicating liquor; and ensure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research.
  8. The Volstead Act did NOT specifically prohibit the use of intoxicating liquor.
  9. The Act defined “intoxicating liquor” as any beverage containing more than 0.5% alcohol by volume.
  10. Under Prohibition, crime rates skyrocketed as gangs took over the production, importation and distribution of alcohol
  11. One of the most infamous gangsters of the Prohibition era was Chicago’s Al Capone.
  12. Al Capone has West Michigan ties, having owned a hide-out cottage on Gun Lake and a favorite corner booth at Nick Fink’s, Grand Rapids’ oldest bars.
  13. Canada became the primary source for illicit alcohol in Michigan, and the Detroit-Windsor connection was the hub of bootlegging activities.
  14. There were an estimated 16,000 to 25,000 speakeasies operating in Detroit in 1928
  15. The Michigan State Police found 800 people inside on speakeasy in Detroit, the Deutches Haus, including Detroit Mayor John Smith, Congressman Robert Clancy and Sheriff Edward Stein.
  16. Congress proposed the 21st Amendment on February 20, 1933
  17. The 21st Amendment is the only Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that repeals a prior amendment.
  18. The 21st Amendment is the only Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was ratified by state ratifying conventions, rather than being offered to the state legislatures for ratification.
  19. Michigan was the first of the 48 states to respond to the amendment and ratified it at a “state ratifying convention” on April 10, 1933.
  20. Ratification of the 21st Amendment was completed on December 5, 1933.
  21. Section 2 of the Amendment gives states absolute control over alcoholic beverages, with some states maintaining a prohibition on alcohol long after the 21st Amendment was ratified (Mississippi remained “dry” until 1966 and Kansas prohibited public bars until 1987!)


The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.


To celebrate the ratification of the 21st Amendment and the repeal of the 18th Amendment, join us Monday, December 5 from 8 pm to Midnight and enjoy cocktails, beer, cider, bbq and live music at 642 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. Here’s a link to the Facebook event page. Here’s a link to purchase your tickets for the event in advance. Highlights of the evening include:

  1. Cocktails from Long Road Distillers
  2. Beer from Creston Brewery
  3. Hard Cider from Peoples Cider Company
  4. BBQ from Two Scott’s BBQ Food Truck
  5. Live Music with The Bootstrap Boys and Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish

Dress in your Sunday Best and party like it’s 1933! Cheers!

Long Road Distillers

In Part 4 of our “What is Bourbon” series, dig into the final requirement for a spirit to be considered bourbon – the aging process – and how that can impact not only how a bourbon tastes, but also how it is labeled.

First, as a bit of a refresher, recall that the legal definition of bourbon whisky, according to the TTB, is:

Whisky produced in the U.S. at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.


For those new to whisk(e)y or unfamiliar with the process, it’s often a surprise that it all comes off the still clear. It’s only through the aging process in a barrel that the spirit gains it’s familiar caramel or amber colors. The barrel also contributes many of the flavors and aromas we’ve come to expect from our favorite whiskies.

This portion of the definition really covers two details: the storage in a barrel and a limit on the alcohol by volume during said storage.

Before we jump into both details, it’s fair to ask: why is whisky barrel aged at all? The answer is a practical one. Back when whisky was first distilled, the best way to store and ship the finished product was in wooden casks. As we touched on in Part 1, Bourbon whisky, in particular, was shipped down the Ohio River to New Orleans in wooden barrels marked for Bourbon Street. Most spirits of the day would have been stored in barrels, but only over time did people realize the benefits of barrel aging.

American Oak must be used in the making of bourbon barrels. Oak has a unique physical and chemical nature that allows it to be manipulated into a barrel, but also has a tight enough grain that it will not leak while still allowing oxygen to move in and out of the spirit.

Beyond these physical characteristics, though, the oak offers three effects on an aging spirit:

  1. It adds to the taste and aroma of the spirit, such as vanillins, lactones, and wood sugars
  2. It acts as a filter, removing undesirable elements from the spirit such as sulfur compounds
  3. It converts unpleasant compounds, such as acetic acid, into more organoleptically desirable elements, like fruity esters


Essentially, the chemical breakdown of the wood sugars contributes flavors that are desirable, while the wood and char combine to contribute spice and toast characteristics.

The second half of this section relates to the proof/abv during the aging process. The Standards of Identity from the TTB requires that the spirit enter the barrel at no higher than 125 proof or 62.5% alcohol by volume. One reason for this is tradition. Early distillery equipment likely didn’t distill the spirit to a very high proof.

The second reason to maintain an upper limit on proof is to keep the level of extraction from getting too out of hand. If you’ve tasted a lot of whiskies, chances are that you’ve run across a whisky that was “over-extracted”. By this, we mean too oaky and on the verge of tasting like a stale cigarette. The higher the proof of the spirit in the barrel, the more quickly it will pull flavors from the barrel and the less time it will have to mellow out and interact with the char, providing the filtering effect.

The length of time the spirits rests in a barrel impacts the final characteristics, too. In general, the longer a spirits rests, the more mellow it will become. Nearly all whisky that is aged less than two years requires a statement of age on the label. This gets into some of the different indicators you can look for on a bottle of bourbon. For example:

Straight Bourbon – must be aged a minimum of two years.

Bottled in Bond Bourbon – must be aged a minimum of four years, distilled in a single season, and bottled at 100 proof.

Finally, the size of the barrel has an impact on the aging process, flavors, aromas and finish of a whisky as well. The smaller the barrel, the greater the surface area-to-volume ratio there is between the wood barrel and the resting whisky. In turn, the smaller the barrel, the faster the aging process and the more flavor will be pulled from the wood. Many start-up distilleries will use 5, 10, or 15 gallon barrels to age their first-release whiskies more quickly, versus opting for a traditional 53 gallon barrel. While this does speed up the process, a distiller also runs the risk of overextraction of tannins, oak, and undesirable flavors, without allowing time for mellowing.

For the Wayfarer’s Whisky Series, our experimental line-up of whiskies, we used 30 gallon barrels with toasted staves and a #3 char from the Barrel Mill in Minnesota. Through careful monitoring and precise heads and tails cuts in the distillation process, our team is able to age our Wheat Whisky, Rye Whisky, Malt Whisky and Bourbon for 8 to 24 months and get a good idea of how the whisky will age over time in larger barrels. Then, once we settled on our mash bills (grain recipes), we started scaling all of our production up to large barrel whisky that we’ll age for 2-6+ years.

Long Road Distillers

Check out Parts 1 and 2 of the “What is Bourbon?” Series here and here.

For Part 3 of our “What is Bourbon” series, we look at the ingredients that make bourbon bourbon. It may seem straight forward, but when you really dig into the Code of Federal Regulations (and the Beverage Alcohol Manual from the TTB, in particular), you learn there are 42 different “types” of whisky, all with different defining characteristics – but many that are VERY slight.

First, as a bit of a refresher, recall that the legal definition of bourbon whisky, according to the TTB, is:

Whisky produced in the U.S. at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.


So, why corn? The simplest answer is “corn is what was available”. When the early bourbon distillers of Kentucky began making whisky, corn was cheap and easy to come by. Once bourbon became popular, though, many people tried to pass their blended whisky or neutral spirits off as bourbon. To help guide the industry, the Federal government made several decisions around the end of the 19th century like the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 (to separate straight whiskies from blended whiskies) and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (that first regulated what could be called Bourbon). And in the 1909 “Decision on Whisky”, President Taft determined that Bourbon Whisky must be made from a majority corn. But, it wasn’t until the fall of Prohibition that the government finally laid out the Standard’s of Identity for Distilled Spirits (SIDS) – which is part of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 27, Part 5 – a chapter we as distillers refer to nearly every day. First adopted in 1935, the SIDS is where we get the definition above and the mandate that bourbon must have not less than 51% corn in the mash bill.

Although corn must be the predominant ingredient in a bourbon’s mash bill (recipe), most bourbon contains two or three other grains as well. Wheat and Rye are often used as “flavoring” ingredients in bourbon, and Malted Barley almost always makes up a percentage of the mash bill to offer enzymes that aid in fermentation and flavor development. Wheated Bourbon is known to hold up better over long stretches in a barrel. Bourbon with heavier doses of rye in the mash bill will have a bit more spice characteristic. Once you know the 51% rule, you can more easily define other whiskies, too. Rye whisky must contain not less than 51% rye. Wheat whisky must contain 51% or more wheat. And so on.

As a new distillery with new equipment and lots of ideas about mash bills for our whisky, the Long Road team decided to offer a series of experimental whiskies that we call the Wayfarer’s Whisky Series. These whiskies are small batch (some as small as a single 30 gallon barrel) and span several different class/types of whiskies. Over the past 6 months, we’ve released a Wheat Whisky, Rye Whisky, and Malt Whisky, all milled, mashed, fermented, distilled, aged and bottled 100% on-site from locally grown ingredients.

With our Bourbon, we wanted to try a few different mash bills to determine what we like best and what we want to invest in heavily for decades to come. Our team landed on four unique mash bills:

    • 63% Yellow Corn
    • 17% Rye
    • 13% Red Winter Wheat
    • 7% Malted Barley
    • 81% Yellow Corn
    • 12% Rye
    • 7% Malted Barley
    • 65% Yellow Corn
    • 28% Red Winter Wheat
    • 7% Malted Barley
    • 81% Yellow Corn
    • 12% Red Winter Wheat
    • 7% Malted Barley

Each mash bill provides incredibly distinct flavor profiles, aromas, and finishes. The high wheat offers lots of vanilla, butterscotch, and caramel flavors. The high rye is more earthy with peppery spice notes.

If you want to see the difference between the mash bills, you have the opportunity to try 3 out of the 4 as single barrel bottlings! We’ve partnered with the following retailers to release Long Road Single Barrel Bourbon in the coming weeks:

  1. Meijer, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Howell, Okemos: The Wheated Bourbon, Batch BB03, Barrel #’s 15-0043 (Knapp’s Corner Meijer), 15-0044 (Cascade Meijer), 15-0045 (Ann Arbor Meijer), 15-0046 (Okemos Meijer) and 15-0047 (Howell Meijer)
  2. Art of the Table, Grand Rapids: The Four Grain Bourbon, Batch BB01, Barrel #15-0030
  3. Rishi’s International Beverage, Grand Rapids: The High Corn & Wheat Bourbon, Batch BB04, Barrel #16-0001 (at 93 proof) and #16-0002 (at cask strength)
  4. SIDEBAR GR and Buffalo Trader’s, Grand Rapids: The Four Grain Bourbon, Batch BB01, Barrel #15-0033


On Tuesday, November 8, we’ll be releasing a special blend of three of the batches (BB01, BB02, and BB03) at the distillery for our Long Road Bourbon Release Party! This unique blend of bourbons contains an all-Michigan lineup of yellow corn, red winter wheat, rye and malted barley.

At Long Road, we’re proud to use all Michigan-grown corn, wheat, rye and barley, and handcraft every one of our spirits from scratch on-site. By partnering with farmers like Denny Heffron (Heffron Farms, Belding, MI) and Byron Center-based Pilot Malt House, we are able to create spirits that have a sense of place – offering uniquely Michigan characteristics that you won’t get anywhere else.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of the “What is Bourbon” series: “…and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers,” where we’ll explain the barrel aging process and its purpose!  

Long Road Distillers

For Part 1 of the “What is Bourbon” series, click here.

Today, we wade into a lesser-known part of the definition of Bourbon, which also means it’s a bit less controversial.

First, as a bit of a refresher, recall that the legal definition of bourbon whisky, according to the TTB, is:

Whisky produced in the U.S. at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.


The phrase “Alcohol by Volume” (ABV), when associated with a percentage, is quite literally what it sounds like: the measure of the content of ethanol (alcohol) in an alcoholic beverage by volume. It is required by the Code of Federal Regulations for distilled spirits labels to include the ABV on the front of the bottle.

The term “proof”, while not required on spirits labels, is often included, particularly when it comes to whisk(e)y. The history of the term dates back to the 16th century and involves gun powder, taxes, and rum – a fun history indeed, but something for another blog post! The easiest way to understand proof in the United States is simply twice the ABV of an alcoholic beverage. So, a 100 proof whisky has an ABV of 50%.

This part of the definition has to do with the ABV/proof of the spirit as it comes off the still. Distillers are able to change the conditions in the still to control the ABV/proof during distillation, including the amount of heat applied to the mash, the amount of plates the alcohol vapor comes in contact with, or the amount of cooling water in the condensers that will cause reflux and re-distillation, just to name a few. The mandate here is to keep the spirit coming off of the still at or below 80% alcohol or 160 proof.

The question one could ask is: why limit this?

The answer: Taste and aroma.

The process of distillation is really a process of volume loss. To offer a rough example, we take 500 gallons of 6% mash/wash, distill it up to 45% ABV and between the heads cut, tails cut, and what’s left behind in the still, we lose most of our volume, yielding approximately 80 gallons of spirit. We’ll then distill that a second time to a higher ABV and lose even more volume. Essentially, we’re pulling the alcohol out into higher and higher concentrations, leaving behind water, grain, and yeast.

In this process, we’re not only leaving behind water, but flavor compounds, congeners, and impurities.

By definition, vodka must be distilled up to or exceeding 190 proof or 95% alcohol. The process of distilling something to 190 proof will theoretically leave it “odorless and tasteless”. The alcohol was concentrated and water and compounds were left out.

So, by requiring Bourbon to be distilled at or below 80% alcohol or 160 proof, more flavor is maintained. Now, we can’t say that maintaining flavor is the reason the Federal Government mandated this limit, but what they were trying to do was create a recognizable, familiar type and class so consumers could understand what they’re getting in a bottle. By mandating a maximum proof at distillation, the hope is that bourbon whisky produced in this manner with then have the “taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to” this type of whisky.

If you want to experience this phenomenon in person, stop in to the distillery and taste the difference between our unaged Corn Whisky, distilled to only 152 proof, and our vodka, distilled to 191 proof. While the mash bills (recipes) are different, you’ll still begin to understand the difference “proof at distillation” has on a spirit. The Corn Whisky has loads of flavor, even a bit of bite, while the Vodka flavors are much more soft and subtle.

At Long Road, our experienced team of distillers takes great care in crafting a unique product with robust flavors in a consistent manner. We’re proud of the fact that we worked with Vendome Copper and Brass, arguably the best whisk(e)y still manufacturers in the world (not many people will argue this fact), to create a custom 500 gallon copper pot still that allows us to handcraft our bourbon both precision and a touch of artistry. And, we’re eager for you to taste the difference when you Take the Long Road!

Stay tuned for Parts 3 & 4 of “What is Bourbon?” coming over the next few days!

Join us Tuesday, November 8 between 4 pm and midnight for the release of Long Road Bourbon!

Straight Bourbon Long Road Distillers

If you ask 10 whisk(e)y drinkers to define bourbon, you’re likely to get 10 different answers. That seems to be due to a variety of myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings surrounding one of America’s favorite whiskies.

According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (or the TTB), the branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that regulates and oversees the distillation, sale, and taxation of distilled spirits, Bourbon Whisky is:

Whisky produced in the U.S. at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.


As we prepare for the release of our first Bourbon Whisky on Tuesday, November 8, we thought it might be helpful to clear up some of these misconceptions with a series of four blog posts, pulling apart the definition piece by piece, and offering explanations for the where, what, how, and why of Bourbon.

Today, we start with the “where”: “Whisky produced in the U.S….”

One of the most common myths about bourbon is that it has to be made in the state of Kentucky. There are many reasons why people may have heard or think this, not least of which is the fact that the term “bourbon” became associated with whisky in Kentucky as early as the 1820’s and consistently used to describe whisky made and distributed from Kentucky by the 1870’s. There is some debate on the inspiration of the term, though. Some suggesting it had to do with the county, Bourbon County, in Kentucky where bourbon whisky was allegedly first made (this is heavily disputed, and it seems to us, based on research, that it probably was NOT first made in Bourbon County). Others argue that the term “bourbon” was more likely inspired by Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Whisky was one of the largest exports (and still is) from the State of Kentucky, and many barrels were marked “Bourbon Street” and sent down the Ohio River to Louisiana. Over time, people began asking for it in New Orleans as simply “Bourbon”.

The other reason many folks assume Bourbon must come from Kentucky is the sheer volume that comes from the State. As of 2014, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association reported over 5.5 million barrels of bourbon aging in Kentucky – outnumbering the people in the state by over 1 million! And, in terms of global production, Kentucky makes 85% of the world’s bourbon.

Some distilled spirits, by legal definition and international treaties, have geographically protected names. Scotch must be made in Scotland; Tequila must come from certain regions of Mexico; Irish Whisky has to be manufactured in Ireland. Bourbon doesn’t have such protection.

The legal definition of Bourbon Whisky from the TTB mandates that it must be made in the United States – anywhere in the United States.

As the number of distilleries in the U.S. rises, so too does the number of bourbons being produced outside the State of Kentucky.

At Long Road, we’re proud to offer the first Bourbon ever milled, mashed, fermented, distilled, aged and bottled 100% in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We’re excited to add our whisky to the rich heritage of distilleries and distillers that have come before us. And, we can’t wait for you to taste what we’ve been working on! Take the Long Road!

Stay tuned for Parts 2-4 of “What is Bourbon?” coming over the next several days!

Join us Tuesday, November 8 between 4 pm and midnight for the release of Long Road Bourbon!

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