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Mike's Mix: A Visit To Du Nord Craft Spirits

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Opening a distillery is complicated, especially when you're one of the first in Minneapolis.

The science of distilling, the art of the recipe and less-than-helpful inspectors were some of the challenges that Du Nord Craft Spirits' co-owner and head distiller Chris Montana faced early on.

But as anyone in a small business knows, the quirks you didn't think of are the ones that leave you shaking your head.

"My farmer's been on vacation, and so, you know, we do everything farm-direct in here and that's I think absolutely a blessing," Montana said. "There are some drawbacks, which is if your farmer goes on vacation, then you can't get any grain."

Once he's back, rye from that farmer will eventually fill several barrels with whiskey.

"We've done some smaller batches in some smaller barrels and using different woods, but we don't have anything in the barrels yet. That's actually probably going to start in a couple weeks," Montana said.

Right now, Du Nord is distilling clear liquor from grain that was custom-grown in Cold Spring by Montana's father-in-law.

"It's a non-GMO corn that we had him plant for us. And it makes fantastic vodka, and it also makes some pretty good gin," Montana said.

Everything Du Nord distills is local.

"There are some products we'll never make because we're committed to using ingredients that grow in the northland," he said.

And it's all on display on the distillery tour they offer.

Montana says the grain-to-glass model they use is less common than you may think. The cost of dealing with raw grain can be too high for some craft distillers, who may not even be producing their own alcohol.

"Instead they buy it from an ethanol facility, bring it in, maybe run it through their still once, maybe not, but just add some water, slap a label on it, [and call it] craft vodka," Montana said. "That's not the way that we roll, and what we wanted to do is we wanted to bring the farm into the city."

And Montana hopes others will follow, because as he sees it, more distilleries are just more help.

"I want to see more people get into this industry hopefully, and be my neighbors, who are going to start from a grain and make a spirit that embodies them. That truly is a craft spirit," Montana said.

You can tour the Du Nord distillery on Saturdays with a reservation.

You can also stop in to their new Cocktail Room Wednesday through Saturday for cocktails made from Du Nord spirits.

WCCO first spoke to Montana and his wife last spring when they first launched their vodka, L'Etoile Du Nord.


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