Review - Great Lakes Distillery Tour

Decided that since Matt and I also enjoy taking tours of food and drink places, that tours of interest should be presented on our blog as well. I have also dreamed up a new category for posts titled "Cheap Date" which will tell of some great cheap places we are enjoying as we are attempting (and succeeding so far!) to save money.

On Friday, Matt had a furlough day at his new job, and I had the afternoon/night off, so we decided to partake in something I had wanted to for quite a while: the Great Lakes Distillery Tour. We hit the 2pm tour, and it was definitely worth the trip! We will probably be back there soon.

A little background on Great Lakes Distillery:
-They are Wisconsin's first distillery to operate since prohibition.
-They aim to bring back the art of locally produced, quality goods.
-They produce in small batches, and also produce specialty spirits that possess unique local twists (i.e. use of WI cherries in the kirschwasser).

We entered the very non-descript warehouse, kitty-corner from Conejitos (which come to think of it would have been a great stop post-tour, had we been able to go out to eat!! haha), and were welcomed by several employees, one of which was a bartender!! She was tending a small bar which showcased Great Lakes' spirits in various cocktails, both standard and unique to the facility.

Matt chose a Milwaukee Mule ($6) which combined Rehorst Vodka, Sprecher Ginger Ale, and fresh lime. It was quite tasty and came in a delightful mason jar mug. It was delicious and refreshing, would make a nice summer cocktail.

I chose to try the Mai Tai (also $6), a drink that can be either awful or delicious depending on the recipe. Thankfully (and I wouldn't expect less from Great Lakes!) they stuck to a pretty traditional Trader Vic recipe, save for the fresh mint garnish. It was served in a nice green tiki mug. I was pleasantly surprised when the bartender pulled out a bottle of HOMEMADE ORGEAT!! (Orgeat, if you do not know, is an almond syrup that is used in many tropical drinks to give a nice exotic flavor. It is also an ingredient that is seldom homemade). The drink was pretty delicious, and it showcased the Roaring Dan's Rum.

After receiving our drinks, we proceeded to join the tour. We came at a good time, as we were one of 4 couples to be in our tour group. We toured the facility (very small facility, but very thorough tour). Our tour guide was none other than Jason Neu, a local cocktail guru who is the Spirit Ambassador at Great Lakes. I had heard his name many times before in local cocktail-related things, so it was nice to put a face to the name.

We were able to see that the distillery has many things it would like to do in the future, and we are definitely looking forward to trying their bourbon when it is well aged and available to the public!!

Post-tour, we opted to do the $3 tasting flight. Jason led us in tasting 7 spirits, with an additional 2 if desired. Here is a brief rundown of what we tried:
-Rehorst Vodka
-Rehorst Citrus & Honey Vodka (no artificial flavoring!)
-Rehorst Gin (one of my fave gins. Sooo good. They use basil in their botanical mix!!)
-Roaring Dan's Rum (pretty tasty; uses WI maple syrup and is named after the pirate of the Great Lakes!!)
-Pumpkin Seasonal Spirit (uses the base of Lakefront Brewery's Pumpkin Lager)
-Absinthe Verte (more anise/fennel flavor, traditional. Was surprisingly good and I don't like anise generally)
-Absinthe Rouge (more unique flavors including hibiscus. Both absinthes had an almost powdered sugar nature on the palate. I think this is why I enjoyed them)
*Note on the absinthes: They were served with a drip of ice water, beautiful presentation.

Optional tastings (of course we had to try them):
-Kirschwasser (cherry artisan brandy)
-Grappa (grape artisan brandy)

When the tasting was finishing, we ended up in a conversation with Jason, and then a guy named Doug (apparently Master Distiller Doug MacKenzie) came to join our conversation. It was really cool be able to talk with them at length about their product and you can really tell they stand behind it 100%. Adding to that, Great Lakes founder Guy Rehorst was walking around the warehouse, talking to people from the tour.

That, my friends, is what makes this distillery unique. You will probably not find many other (dare I say ANY other?) distilleries that take this approach to their product. It's very community-based and fills a long overdue need for top-notch, locally produced spirits. Visit them ASAP! You will not regret it.


  1. I want to go there next time we visit Milwaukee. I went on a brewery tour yesterday and thought of you. You guys should come out and visit this summer and we'll take you.

  2. Sure thing Kali!!! We'd love to take you guys there next time you're back! :)


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