Chicago resident for over 20 years, was given the opportunity to bring Malört home, he pounced. In late February, CH Distillery loaded the first bottles of Malört made in Chicago in 30 years. Now Malört is taking over the world. “I think many Chicagoans, I like to call them Malört enthusiasts, take pride in it,” said Janes, “I feel the true Chicago experience is taking that shot of Malört.” Janes said a big reason for the brand’s resurgence the last decade is the social media phenomenon known as #malortface, people posting videos and photos of their friends’ reactions to trying Malört for the first time. “That ‘Oh my God, what the hell is that’ face,” laughed Janes. Malört’s recipe is a well-kept secret, but Janes can confirm they use European wormwood. Janes also said when Atkinson began test batches, he decided to remove the artificial coloring. “Some of that is about our portfolio of products,” he explained, which includes award-winning certified organic CH Vodka and all natural London Dry Gin. He also said the distillery mills and mashes grains in-house, most sourced from within 60 miles of Chicago. Why would a refined distillery with a love of the all-natural be interested in such a reviled spirit? Atkinson said it’s about a love for the Second City itself. “I love Malört for the same reasons I love Chicago,” he explained. “It’s bold, strong, and unapologetically itself.” He also added that CH, which not only stands for Chicago but the fundamental compounds in alcohol, carbon and hydrogen, is already known for their bitter herbal liqueurs so Malört fit right in. When Atkinson’s purchase became official last fall, the Florida facility had enough bottles in stock that he didn’t have to go into production right away. That was both good and bad because it gave him time to refine the process in his new 20,000-square foot facility in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. It also meant he and his staff had the privilege of taste testing many, many batches. We work well together. “I know it was 20-plus iterations before Tremaine felt that we were replicating the same product being produced in Florida,” Janes noted. He also said that with news of the purchase, Malört enthusiasts are coming out of the woodwork. “Not a day goes by we don’t get an email or a social media post from someone requesting Malört in their state,” he said. In response, CH Distillery has increased distribution to surrounding states with plans to add more. Atkinson said they expect to produce 300,000 or more bottles this year. Why all this for spirit most people don’t even like? “I think,” said Janes, “a lot of people are drawn to [Malört] because it is unique. And with all the eras that it has survived with the supply and demand only being in the Chicago area that says a lot. There were a number of times it could have gone away forever. It’s a survival story.”
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