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Ann Arbor Distilling Co.'s new whiskey opens possibilities in Michigan

A2DC's Fox River Michigan Whiskey highlights Michigan grains

Photo | Meredith Bruckner

On June 14, Ann Arbor Distilling Co. debuted its new Fox River Michigan Whiskey. Made with Michigan grains and cherrywood charcoal, the whiskey is something that is not only new to the distilling company but to the state as a whole. 

While Michigan is known for its wines and beers, Michigan-made whiskeys are a new concept for distilleries in the state. 

According to Ann Arbor Distilling Co. head distiller John Britton, Michigan whiskey is something that A2DC is trying to define.

“Distilling in Michigan really seems to be in its infancy right now,” Britton said. 

When it comes to distilling, Britton [and A2DC] want to capture the spirit of a fruit or an area in their spirits, which is especially interesting in Michigan, which Britton called a cornucopia of things that can be fermented and distilled.

The new Fox River Michigan Whiskey will be released on Friday. Photo | Ann Arbor Distilling Co.

Having set out to do that with the Fox River Michigan Whiskey, a blend of Britton's passion for distilling and an answer to growing call for a whiskey, Ann Arbor Distilling Co. has highlighted all things Michigan in its whiskey. 

Read: Ann Arbor Distilling Co. releases new Fox River Michigan Whiskey Friday

 “The idea was to capture Michigan’s terroir through the lens of the whiskey, and the best way I sought to do that was including the four major grains that Michigan produces [corn, rye, wheat and barley],” Britton said.

Another important part of the creation of the Fox River Michigan Whiskey was the process it had to undergo. The whiskey was filtered through cherrywood charcoal, a difference that sets it apart from whiskeys made in popular whiskey-making states, like Tennessee.

Filtering through cherrywood charcoal also gives the whiskey subtle notes of fruit and smokiness.

“We also didn’t want to, essentially, just copy a nice, smokey scotch, either. The idea was to make something that hopefully reflected Michigan. And I really do think that we did it,” Britton said. 

“It’s a really nice, easy drinking whiskey. It’s smooth. It’s precocious because it's only about three years old; but, it’s still very complex at the same time."

But the Fox River Michigan Whiskey isn’t just an ode to Michigan. The process of its creation, like many of the spirits at Ann Arbor Distilling Co, is based on symbiotic relationships with local farmers. 

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A grain-to-glass distillery, Ann Arbor Distilling Co. takes grains from Dexter Mill, turns those grains into a mash that is fermented and distilled, and then adds the distilled spirits to its botanicals.

“We have a still that is capable of making such a strong spirit and we also have a mill that is just down the road, so why wouldn’t I go local? It was an easy choice to make,” Britton said. 

After using its mash, A2DC gives it to a local farmer, who in turn uses it to feed his animals. Britton said that without local farmers and producers, Ann Arbor Distilling Co. wouldn’t be able to do what it does as he wouldn't be able to get rid of the mash (it can’t be disposed of down drains). The fruit for A2DC Eau de Vie also comes from local wineries, is used fruit liquors and is also given to local farmers. 

“It’s really not lost on me how fortunate we are to be located here in Ann Arbor and of course, being so close to all of these farmers, that we can actually make a really singular product.”

Britton said that he is looking forward to seeing what other Michigan distillers can make and how they interpret a Michigan whiskey. 

Moving forward Britton said that Ann Arbor Distilling Co. will be debuting a small amount of bourbon and rye, also highlighting Michigan through the usage of Michigan grains like the Fox River Michigan Whiskey.

A bottle of the Fox River Michigan Whiskey costs $39. Try it during one of the many events hosted by the distillery, like its weekend evening concerts. 

Known for its smooth gins, Eau de Vie and other adventurous distilled spirits, Ann Arbor Distilling Co. sits nestled in the Waterhill neighborhood and is located at 220 Felch St. 

Read: Ann Arbor Distilling Company: Not your average spirits

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