Monday, March 22, 2010

Great Lakes Releases First Wisconsin Bourbon.

The people in this picture waited for up to three hours, outside on a cold Wisconsin afternoon, to pay $45 for a half-bottle of 2-year-old bourbon that none of them had ever tasted.

That’s just an example of the excitement created by Milwaukee’s Great Lakes Distillery (GLD) and the very limited release of their Test Batch Bourbon, the first bourbon whiskey ever made in Wisconsin. Only 263 bottles (375 ml) were produced, the output of two 15-gallon barrels laid down in 2007 by Distiller Doug Mackenzie. The distillery is run by Guy Rehorst.

The launch event was held this past Saturday, March 20, at the small distillery just south of downtown Milwaukee.

Mackenzie, Rehorst and everyone else was blown away by the response. The event was only minimally promoted and they didn’t know what to expect. Because there were so few bottles, they put on a 2-per-customer limit. As the line grew, they decided to pass out tickets so people would know if they were going to get a bottle or not. The event was supposed to begin at 5:30 PM, but all of the tickets were gone by 4:45 PM.

Many stayed anyway for the party and people kept arriving. Hundreds of people crammed themselves into the small distillery space, where cocktails were available, other GLD products were sampled (they make vodka, gin, absinthe, and liqueurs), and snacks were served (meatballs and some good Wisconsin hard salami and cheese).

The whiskey itself is good, the response was phenomenal.

At their previous location, GLD was very limited in terms of how much alcohol they could store. Now they have more space, and the correct zoning, and a nice rack full of barrels that contain whiskey and other aging spirits. There is more bourbon in the pipeline but, sadly, it won’t be ready for a couple more years.

Is the world excited about bourbon from Wisconsin? It may not matter, because the people of Milwaukee certainly are.

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