spotlight || distilleries
Triple Distilled Three husband-and-wife teams are tapping into the bounty of Minnesota’s fields and forests to create craft spirits. | BY DAVID MAHONEY
ast spring, Cheri Reese was sitting in a seminar at a craft-distilling conference in Denver, listening to an experienced distiller lay out key points for people considering getting into the business. “He said, ‘You cannot do it by yourself,’” she recalls. “If you’re a one-person show, you can’t do it.” Fortunately, that wasn’t an issue for Reese. She has a devoted partner in her husband, Michael Swanson. They’re now co-proprietors of Far North Spirits, whose gin and spiced rum have found their way onto the shelves of liquor stores and bars throughout Minnesota and North Dakota. The past few years have seen a tidal wave of taproom openings sweep across the state, triggered by the 2011 passage of the so-called “Surly bill.” Named for the wildly popular craft brewery that pushed it through, the bill cleared the way for small breweries to be able to serve beer on-site. Mostly overlooked at the time was a brief clause that effectively lowered the annual license fee for small-scale distillers from a prohibitive $30,000 to a far more affordable $1,100. But some people did take notice. More than a dozen craft distilleries in Minnesota have fired up their stills or are poised to do so. At the forefront of this boom are three married couples in different corners of the state who are banking on the proposition that when it comes to distilling artisanal spirits, two heads — and hearts — are better than one.
204 Artful Living
| Spring 2014
grain to glass CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE Far North Spirits’
Solveig Gin is made at the family farm near Hallock by Michael Swanson and Cheri Reese. Their copper still is from Kentucky. Duluth’s Vikre Distillery makes three different kinds of gin.