Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Journeyman Distillery Blazes an Artistic Liquid Trail in Harbor Country

Three Oaks, MI is a Village in SW Michigan's Harbor Country, and is named for massive oaks that stood near a town rail crossing.  Three Oaks is a culturally-rich little village, a true piece of Pure Michigan Americana, filled with quaint shops and live theater, with artistic energy flowing through town.

Three Oaks is also home to the E.K. Warren Featherbone Factory, which was built over a century ago, to strip turkey feathers of their quills to use in women's  corsets.  This past Saturday, October 8, 2011, marked a magical beginning for Journeyman Distillery, which now calls the Featherbone Factory home. They officially opened the doors to their new distillery and tasting room.  I was unable to attend this grand event, as I was absorbing the perfect PURE Michigan Autumn Day at the New Buffalo Harvest and Wine Festival via my merchant booth for The Rusty Rabbit's Cocktail Cottage.  However, I was 100% sure that the event was a tremendous success.  I had the pleasure of consulting with the Journeymen months before they saw their dream become a reality on Saturday evening.

I met Bill Welter and Nick Gurniewicz approximately eight months ago when they were in the early stages of crafting their spirits. The Featherbone Factory building, which now houses the distillery and tasting room, was vacant with a blank slate for improvement.  A few months later, Bill contacted me, asking me to teach them everything I knew about crafting cocktails in a two-hour private mixology class.  We had so much fun that the two hours turned into a five-hour friendship gathering, complete with Matt Jannotta, who joined us as Journeyman's new Bar Manager. I was honored and completely thrilled to be asked to guest bartend the "Friends and Family" night on Friday, September 23, as a preview to the Grand Opening Night.

I was amazed at the transformation of this portion of the Featherbone Factory.  Bill and Nick had kept the original feel and contents of this historical site. The original maple factory floors are from the 1800′s.  Gracing the stage is an original concrete bar, made in Grand Rapids, with coordinates etched into the side—to mark this historic and unique location.


Bill used wood from his family's barn in central Indiana - wood that was once the flooring for an early turn-of-the-century schoolhouse. An original photograph of Featherbone Factory employees, taken in 1923, is artistically framed and crafted into a wooden nook in the bar area of the tasting room.

E.K. Warren, the original builder of the factory—while being a staunch prohibitionist—would be proud to see his building shining bright.  As a tribute to the builder, the distillery tasting room uses its sense of humor to the fullest, and features a twist on the classic Mark Twain cocktail, called the "E.K. Warren," using Journeyman's Ravenswood Rye, Fresh Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup and 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters. Their balanced, locally-sourced, seasonally changing cocktail menu is fresh and simple, allowing Journeyman's artisan crafted spirits to shine appropriately.

Currently available at the Three Oaks Tasting Room:  W.R. Welter White Whiskey and Ravenswood Rye Whiskey.

Cocktail aficionados enjoying fine crafted libations using Journeyman Distillery Whiskeys - The White Manhattan and White Dog Cocktails.

The first cocktails to flow at the Journeyman Distillery Tasting Room during Friends and Family night. The Greenbush Brewing Company crew, of New Buffalo, stopped by to extend their best wishes and congratulations to their new neighbors in Three Oaks.

Friends and Family night was a complete success -- cocktails were flowing, guests were having the time of their lives, and, the Journeymen? Well, they were grinning ear-to-ear like proud fathers watching their children dance and perform at their first school play.  Their "spirited" children performed with the cocktails gracefully and elegantly without a flaw. After months of hard work, tough hurdles overcome, and the drive and determination to succeed, their dream had become a reality.  I was truly impressed and very proud to have been a part of the early stages of Journeyman's development.  I wish my friends at Journeyman Distillery all the GOOD SPIRIT KARMA in the world!  If you are in SW Michigan's Harbor Country, be sure to include a stop at Journeyman Distillery's wonderful tasting room, filled with liquid art in the Village of Three Oaks, MI.  I look forward to my next visit with my friends!  Cheers!

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