Knockin’ on Death’s Door

Last year some Wisconsin friends sent me an article about a new vodka from a company called Death’s Door Spirits. I was intrigued, mostly because it sounded like the company was distilling the base for its vodka themselves from locally grown wheat.

Later we found out that Death’s Door was also going to produce a gin.

I was even more intrigued at that point and sent them a note asking if they were also distilling the base for their gin from wheat.

The answer was even more interesting.

It turns out, Death’s Door is the brainchild of a couple of sustainable agriculture geeks. The whole point of their enterprise, along with making enough money for a living, is to keep sustainable agriculture alive on a small island in Lake Michigan called, “Washington Island.”

Initially thinking of producing a line of gourmet flours and grains, they hit upon the brainstorm of instead turning the particular grain grown on Washington Island into Beer and Vodka.

Their first product, Island Wheat, brewed by Capital Brewery in Madison, Wisconsin, was a smashing success. “Local” plays big in Wisconsin, and the beer is a fine, accessible wheat beer.

They then turned their attention to spirits. They brew a flat wheat beer at Capital Brewing, then ship it to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where it is distilled into Vodka. This again was a success, with them barely able to keep up with demand for the product. Their second spirits venture, Death’s Door Gin, not only sources the wheat from Washington Island, but also many of the botanicals used to flavor the gin. Interestingly, it was created with the help of the chef at the Washington Island Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary School. It is a mild flavored, traditional style Gin. I would compare it to a Jonge Genever, though the wheat base gives it a much different character than the malted barley used to make Genever. The gin has also been a success, with them, surprisingly, shipping nearly as much Gin to their outlets as vodka.

Their newest venture, a single malt unaged wheat whiskey has a lot of people talking. They have begun sending out samples, and hope to get it to market later this year. I’ve no idea what to expect from an unaged Wheat Whiskey, but can’t wait to try it. They are also working on opening a second distillery in Madison, Wisconsin, so they can call their Whiskey,Vodka, and Gin 100% Wisconsin-made products.

Given the small size of the operation, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll run across any of the Death’s Door products any time in the very near future, but if you do get to Wisconsin or Illinois, be sure to check them out. It’s a cool company run by a group of decent, sincere idealists, who are producing some very interesting products and at the same time making a real difference by supporting local, sustainable agriculture.

3 thoughts on “Knockin’ on Death’s Door

  1. I travel to wi frequently and actually their products are less than spectacular. unaged whisky? that’s called moonshine…. theres a reason you put whiskey in oak.

  2. I travel to Wisconsin frequently, too.

    Unaged whisk(e)y though, produced legally is just “unaged whisl(e)y” it’s not moonshine.

    It remains to be seen if the Death’s Door Whisk(e)y product is any good. As someone who is interested in the process and end product, I’m curious to see what they come up with.

  3. My only experience with wheat whiskey is with Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey and Death”s Door Wheat Whiskey is nothing at all like Bernheim Original. Deaths Door, from my limited perspective, is in a catagory of it’s own. And I do support the sustainable agricultural practices. Good job.

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