TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – A Michigan distillery is honoring the passing of its master distiller with a limited edition cherrywood bourbon.
Grand Traverse Distillery was one of the first distilleries in Michigan. Kent Rabish founded the company, which has gone through a lot since 2005. Most recently, the company and the Radish family have been grieving over the loss of their master distiller and son, Landis Rabish.
A son of a distillery owner, Landis Rabish followed in his father’s footsteps. He studied at Central Michigan University, and after graduation, he became the master distiller of Grand Traverse Distillery.
This past year, Landis Rabish was diagnosed with Glioblastoma. Kent Rabish said that his son was given eight months to live.
Glioblastoma, also known as GBM, is a cancerous tumor. According to the American Brain Tumor Association, the tumor is made up of astrocytic cells and a mix of dead cells. The tumor infiltrates and invades nearby regions of the brain and spreads to the spinal cord of the person infected. GBM represents about 14% of brain tumors and, on average, more than 12,000 cases are diagnosed in the United States yearly. The survival for someone diagnosed with the cancerous tumor between the ages of 15-39 is 26%.
Some symptoms are seizures, severe headaches, memory, and language problems, changes in personality and behavior, muscle weakness or paralysis, fatigue, issues with coordination and speech, hearing and vision problems. Kent Rabish said that he and his wife should have noticed these symptoms prior to Landis Rabish’s diagnosis. The master distiller’s father said there were little hints like Landis Rabish not feeling comfortable on ladders and having his coworkers do tasks he would normally do. The irony, Kent Rabish said, is that his wife was a neurologist.
“My wife said she was kicking herself that she didn’t see something earlier,” Kent Rabish said. “But sometimes we have those rose-colored glasses with your family, and it’s like hard. You see somebody so often that you don’t notice the little teeny subtle changes. If he didn’t see somebody for six months, you’d see him again and go, ‘something isn’t quite right’ or ‘something changed.’”
Kent Rabish explains that the brain cancer Landis Rabish was diagnosed with is 100% lethal.
“Unfortunately, it’s the No. 1 type of brain tumor,” said Kent Rabish. “And it’s a terminal disease. What you’re doing is buying time by, you know, can you do surgery? What type of chemotherapy can you do? Radiation? All you’re doing is buying time.”
Kent Rabish said that his son was able to come to peace with the eight months that he was given. He also mentioned that when it all ended, it was at the right time.
“Landis was a pillar of the Michigan distilling community and he will be sorely missed. While we didn’t have a close personal relationship with him we knew him by reputation as an innovative distiller with a strong work ethic.”Chris Fredricson, Traverse City Whiskey
“Landis will be remembered for the caring and integrity he brought to his surroundings. The sorrow that his family is feeling now is huge, but for them, we can continue to emphasize the GRAND in Grand Traverse because it reminds us of him and what is grand in life and spirits.”Dianne Holman, Red Cedar Spirits
Landis Rabish started his distilling journey after he graduated from Central Michigan University and came back to the family business in Traverse City. Kent Rabish said that the future master distiller worked in sales for Grand Traverse Distillery before he got his hands dirty on the production side.
When Landis Rabish started distilling, Kent Rabish said his son started half a dozen variations of bourbon that were aged in three different types of wood barrels over a period of time. The Michigan distillery uses white oak, French oak, and Portugal barrels. They differ in size and are used for the “slayer system.” Where half of the alcohol in a barrel is blended with another half from another barrel, giving the final product unique flavors.
One of Landis Rabish’s projects is a cherrywood bourbon, which the distillery will be releasing and allowing the funds to go to a good cause. One of the projects that the late master distiller was working on is a single malt cherrywood smoked single malt whiskey. Kent Rabish said that the spirit is about seven years old and that this is one of Landis Rabish’s favorite projects. There are only three barrels of the bourbon, and each barrel can produce up to 250 bottles. The barley used for the spirit was soaked and dried by being smoked out by cherry wood.
Kent Rabish said that one of the barrels will be dedicated to his grandchildren’s college fund. 100% of the proceeds of the sold bottles will go to Landis Rabish’s children, who are three boys all under the age of 10. The bottle’s retail value is set at $100.