By Kara Newman
Of all the states in the great Midwest, no one has more distilleries than Michigan.
Since 2008, when the Michigan Liquor Control Commission made several big changes to the state’s distilling law, the industry has grown by leaps and bounds. As of 2019, the state was home to 78 distilleries, according to the American Craft Spirits Association.
“One of the things that makes a spirit uniquely Michigan is a focus on Michigan ingredients,” says Tammy Coxen, co-author of Cheers to Michigan: A Celebration of Cocktail Culture and Craft Distillers. For example, “a ton of distilleries are getting their grains from within a few miles of [the] distillery.”
Michigan is a large, diverse state that produces a wide range of spirits from Montmorency cherry liqueurs to aquavit. Coxen says that if she had to pick one spirit to embody Michigan, it would be gin.
“That’s where we see some Michigan distilleries doing some very interesting things,” she says, from Ann Arbor Distillery’s seasonal gins to Long Road Distillers’ MichiGIN, flavored exclusively with Michigan-grown botanicals, including the juniper berries.
But if she gets to pick two spirits? “Rye.” Specifically, bottlings made with state-grown rye. Examples include Two James, Journeyman and Grand Traverse, as well as newcomer Mammoth Distilling, which works with heirloom strains of rye.
Yet, what really distinguishes the state’s distilleries is a strong sense of community, Coxen says.
“They’re so creative and passionate about their craft, and they’re willing to share,” she explains. “They want people to know how they do it, and why they’re so proud of their product.”
Here are nine notable Michigan distilleries worth seeking out for your next pour.
Long Road Distillers: Opened in 2015 as the first craft distillery in Grand Rapids, Long Road has a robust list of spirits. Many feature local twists, like MichiGIN or Amaro Pazzo, an amaro collaboration with local coffee roaster Madcap.