CH Distillery Visit (Chicago)

The CH Distillery bar/distillery hybrid is a handsome place to have a drink.  They give a short (10 minutes) and expensive ($15), but really fun, tour of their 2-year-old facility.
Chicago has become a top notch spirits city.  In the last 12 months alone, four boutique distilleries have opened to the public.  Many of the distilleries use water from Lake Michigan to boil organic grains from Midwest farms, resulting in some really clean, delicious spiritous liquors.

I had an opportunity to check out CH Distillery in the West Loop this week and met with owner/master distiller Tremaine Atkinson, a former San Francisco asset manager.  While Tremaine sources his bourbon from MGPI, he makes a ton of unique vodkas, several gins, rums, and limoncello on site.  I finished my night there by having a shot with Tremaine- he likes to share his cherry aquavit (a Scandanavian vodka) with visitors, which he keeps chilled in a freezer. 

What I found to be most interesting about CH distillery was that Tremaine has just two years of distilling experience but appears to be doing just fine running his operation.  While working in San Francisco, he dabbled in home brewing, but he doesn't have any technical training on the still and he doesn't have a paid consultant.  One of his employees called him the mad scientist, and it shows.  The walls of the stillhouse are "white erase boards" and Tremaine's notes to himself are written everywhere in various colors and states of legibility.  

While the focus is on vodka, CH distillery is growing rapidly and has plans to age whiskey at a new expansion site.  In the meantime, Tremaine sources bourbon from MGPI which he bottles at 105 proof.  The bourbon is 4.5 years old and has a spicy bite/long finish suggesting a high rye mash bill.  He wouldn't reveal specifics, as he doesn't even know specifics.  MGPI is somewhat guarded in the information it reveals to him, despite the fact that he is their customer. 

Before I left CH, I ordered an Old Fashioned, made with Demerara and CH bourbon.  It was, perhaps, the best Old Fashioned I'd ever had.  It's possible that I was influenced by euphoria brought on by the various vodka, rum, and aquavit shots I'd had, but I was truly impressed with the place, and if you're ever in Chicago, it's worth a stop in to see these guys having fun.

The best Old Fashioned I've ever had.

Kane County, IL soft red winter wheat for the vodka