Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We Find New Rum and an Old Distillery

Calling Grand Traverse Distillery (GTD) old is really a misnomer. It has been around for a good period of time as far as craft Distillation goes, but that makes it pretty new compared to the mass distilleries. They have been on the market for about 6 years. 

From their website:

Grand Traverse Distillery is proud to be Michigan’s largest micro-distillery celebrating our 6th year in business 2013. Our Lineup of Spirits celebrates the natural gifts abundant to Michigan’s 45th parallel, home to the United States finest cherry industry and award winning wine producers. The finest rye in the world is grown north of the 45th parallel and our rye is grown right here in Northern Michigan by Send Brother’s Farm. Using crystal clear glacial waters and high quality rye, wheat and corn make the 45th parallel an ideal location to distill our spirits.
Located in Traverse City, Michigan, the Grand Traverse Distillery is the vision of Kent Rabish, a Michigan native. After visiting micro-distilleries on the West Coast, Kent saw the opportunity to bring hand crafted spirits to Michigan. Across the country a renaissance is
taking place in the distilling industry. Small craft distillers are bringing back hand made, high quality spirits using fresh locally grown ingredients.  Because of his Polish heritage, Kent has always appreciated a high quality spirit and he has decided to share his passion with the rest of us.
Hand crafting spirits is not a new idea; distillation of grain has existed since at least the fifteenth century. In what is now Poland, monks began distilling grains in the fifteenth century. Prior to prohibition, America had a strong tradition of family owned local distilleries, each with a local character. Beginning in the early 1990’s, micro brewing became popular in America. It is with this history in mind that micro distilleries are beginning to make a comeback.
GTD - Distillery

After years of research, Rabish decided to purchase a 16 plate, 1200 liter reflux still from Arnold Holstein in Germany. Craft distillation is about quality, not quantity. Using world class rye grown in the TC area and pure glacial waters, our distiller strives for quality. Nothing is more important. Craft distillation means hand made one small batch at a time. The distiller decides when to make the cuts, from heads to the heart of the run and from the heart to the tails. These cuts are made not based on technology or automated instruments but to the taste and aromas as determined by a single person, our distiller. The result is the elimination of undesirable characteristics that can produce a harsh spirit. No automated equipment can do the task better than the individual. We decide every day the characteristics of our spirits using our senses, one small batch at a time.​

We've been fans since that first year and GTD played a part in my desire to write about distilled spirits. Rum was not on their list and those of you who know my history know of its origins. The craft distillation though grabbed me. It was soon after I searched the words rum and craft distillation that began this journey nearly a year ago. Loved their Cherry Vodka - their Wheat Vodka and always enjoy tasting new things flowing from their barrels and vats.

Still, No rum. Then last year, reading their newsletter (sign up at their Website!) I discovered a column written by Landis Rabish, he's The Distiller. So we began to exchange the occasional email. I found him, as I often do with Distillers, passionate about quality, the art of making spirits, beyond the science of making it happen. He told me that a rum was in the works.

This year in one of the newsletters I find Rum is in the barrel! This is a great move. It means somewhere on their property there was, at least, one barrel of Rum to be sampled. On our nearly annual trip to the Grand Traverse Bay area, I knew I had to seek out a sample.

When we got to the distillery (they have several stores but only one distillery), I asked the charming young lady in front if Landis was in. He was and she was gracious to get him and bring him back.

After introductions, conversation pretty much steered to RUM. He said that the rum they had made was in barrels and was about 4 months in. They were new American Oak barrels and they were testing as they went. Upon my inquiry as to when they planned a release, he answered, "When its ready." Good answer!

They had pulled samples the day before so once in the distillery section, in his office, Landis poured me a nice shot. It had a slightly woody aroma, but a clean molasses scent was there as well. Upon tasting - I found the clear taste of sweet once the rum had circled my tongue. A hing of Oak, a mild, pleasing molasses, a quite sweet finish. Mr. Rabish said they did not like the amount of woodiness, and that it had a goodly amount of time to age before it passed HIS taste. I feel is was beyond passable now, a mixer for absolute and a sipper sure. But nothing that could not improve with age! So age it does. As we talked, he mentioned that they were going to go with a clear rum as well, but had not produced any yet (that may have changed). I asked that he please send me a sample if he could.

To rate his aged Rum now, when the Distiller clearly says it is not ready, would be a disservice. However, to this taster, it was as good as many highly ranked rums I have swished, better than a few. With age I expect even better things to develop!

So this was the second Distiller we visited while up on Bay Country. We will talk about the third next time... Stay tuned as we have lots to discuss in upcoming articles!

Until later this week I manage to remain.....

PS: -- If you'd like to get notification of my blog without all the signing up on the blog itself - You can use Feedspot.com for your news feed (RSS) they have a HUGE list of great feeds so it can become a great way to find, read and enjoy lots of news with out signing up for each. Also -- our blog is picked up by Liquor.com as well, read not only my views on rum, but many others as well as pretty much EVERY kind of liquor you can think of... 

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