Some of the best vodka and gin available is made at J. Carver Distillery, located just a short drive from the Twin Cities. Jason Newell, our manager of Wines & Spirits in Chanhassen, takes us on a tour of their facilities:
What I think of as local is a product that is produced close enough to me that I can drive to it in less than a day. Today I ventured out past the western suburbs of Minneapolis. The road is quickly surrounded by beautiful green landscapes of rolling hills filled with farms, woods and golf courses. My destination: J. Carver Distillery in Waconia, Minn., a small town that is a lot closer to the Twin Cities than it seems.
J. Carver is a craft distillery that was opened in June 2015 by a small group of people with a passion for creating unique and interesting spirits. The owner, Bill Miller, relocated to the Twin Cities in 1989. He moved to Waconia to get away from the congestion of the city and soon became a friend and leader in the community. His dream to build a craft distillery became reality when his family and a group of friends reconditioned an abandoned Pontiac dealership and transformed it into a distillery that is as beautiful as the spirits they are creating.
When you enter the tasting room of the distillery the first thing that hits you is the toasty, rich aroma of grain cooking and fermenting. It’s like a farmhouse kitchen where bread is being baked. Bill uncorks a giant barrel that has recently been emptied of gin for us to smell. It is ripe with the essence of botanicals intertwined with oak. Shortly afterwards, Bill rushes off to order grain that he will need for making spirits a year and a half from now. One of the other cofounders, Gina Holman, takes me on a tour of the distillery. It is obvious this is a labor of love where everyone is wearing a lot of hats to make the best spirits and give the best hospitality to their guests.
As we walk through the dry storage area the names of the towns printed on the hundreds of bags of grain are all familiar: Glencoe for winter wheat, Plato for corn and Clear Lake for the rye. Here they source as much local product as possible even using wild rice as a part of the gin recipe.
In the distillation room, gleaming copper pot stills with multiple chambers for adding aromatics to the gin line the room. The centerpiece is an epic two-and-a-half story column still with four towers shining brilliantly in a skylight that was added to accommodate the height of this masterpiece.
The grand finale of the tour is the barrel room. It’s stacked high with multiple sizes of oak barrels crafted by Minnesota coopers, slowly aging rye, bourbons and their signature Barrel Gin. It will take patience to wait for the rye and bourbons to mature, but the Barrel Gin is available now and it’s the most interesting gin I have tasted. It starts with a blast of juniper and finishes with a caramel sweetness that has a touch of smoke to it. Drink this gin like you would a nice single malt whisky.
J. Carver has committed to utilizing quality local ingredients and the expertise of Minnesota’s craftsmen. They have created five incredible spirits that are available in our Wines & Spirits locations: Premium Vodka, Lake House Ultra-Premium Vodka, Premium Gin, Grimm Farm Ultra-Premium Gin and their signature Barrel Gin. They have also created anticipation for the flavors that will come from the barrel room in the years ahead.
We look forward to tasting these and other innovative flavors coming from J. Carver where local and craft are what they do every day.
Photos provided by J. Carver Distillery.