Craft distilling in the United States currently generates billions of dollars annually, with almost 2,000 operators across the country. Because of this boom, several distilleries have enhanced their offerings beyond the standard tasting room and gift shop experience. Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan, is hitting all the marks.
In 2000, Journeyman’s founder, Bill Welter graduated college and headed to Scotland, continuing his interest in golf while working at the Old Course at St. Andrews. It was there he met fellow golf enthusiast Greg Ramsay. The two became friends and soon discovered their mutual passion for whiskies.
Ramsay returned to his native Tasmania, where he developed a golf course and a distillery. Welter soon followed, learning about the technical production of whiskey, then returning to the U.S., specifically Chicago, where he worked alongside Dr. Robert Birnecker, producing rye whiskey of great renown. In 2010, Welter and his father purchased the historic Featherbone factory in Michigan, where the distillery operates today.
In 1893, E.K. Warren (namesake of nearby Warren Dunes State Park) built the factory building and produced buggy whips and corsets made from turkey featherbone, lighter and less expensive than the whalebone used at the time. Today, the distillery produces over 20 different expressions of whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, and cordials, sourcing organic grains from local farms (and nodding to the property’s history).
The Last Feather Rye, with a mash bill comprised of 60% rye and 40% wheat, is a single distillation whiskey bottled at 45% ABV and is their most notable. “It’s nice to offer the customer a little room for experimentation in the glass by offering a higher proof expression,” Welter explains. “You can add a little water or ice, depending on your personal preference. Or you can drink it neat.”
Hints of banana, pepper and spice are balanced with a clean, dry finish. The rye was awarded two gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and scored 91 points in Jim Murray’s “Whiskey Bible.”
Journeyman’s Red Arrow Vodka draws its name from the historical highway that was dedicated in 1952 to the 32nd Infantry Battalion that used the red arrow as its insignia. Made with 100% organic Michigan wheat, it is double distilled and bottled at 45% abv. USA Today named it one of the “10 Best Craft Vodkas”. This exceptionally clean and smooth vodka is a direct result of the distillery’s water source—a pristine, untreated aquifer 130 feet below the ground in Three Oaks. The water, mixed with “grain-to-glass” small batch production, ensures the high quality of all the spirits produced at Journeyman. All the distillery’s grains are milled on site.
Drink. And Eat. And Work on Your Short Game.
Journeyman Distillery also offers whiskey fans an amazing opportunity to taste chef Kevin Schultz’ dynamic Midwestern seasonal cuisine at the Staymaker Restaurant, featuring housemade charcuterie, smoked trout spread, Detroit-style pizzas, and sustainably-sourced seafood. The James Beard Foundation has named Staymaker a “Smart Catch Leader,” meaning his work helps increase the sustainability of the seafood supply chain. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and also offers a hearty brunch on Sundays. The Journeyman Humdinger Jalapeno Bloody Mary is quite good, I assure you.
The founder’s other passions are on display here as well, as evident at Welter’s Folly, a 30,000 square foot putting green inspired by the Himalayan Putting Green at St. Andrew’s. Welter got the idea for the rolling, 18-hole putting green after walking through the Sand Hills of Wisconsin with his friend and golf course developer Craig Haltom. It is one of the 10 largest putting greens in the world and an excellent way to spend time with family and friends.
Accommodations are also available for those looking to visit and spend more time in Three Oaks. The Flat at Journeyman Distillery is a 7,000 square foot, 5-bedroom loft-style apartment that can sleep 18 and has a secluded courtyard just steps away from the distillery. A separate farmhouse and smaller bunkhouse are also available for rental as well. To check rates and availability, contact Bluefish Vacation Rentals at 269-469-0468. Journeyman Distillery also has event spaces for weddings, celebrations and casual gatherings in a rustic, yet modern contemporary space.
“Life is a journey and you never know where it’s going to take you,” Welter says. Just 90 minutes east of Chicago, Journeyman Distillery offers whiskey and spirits fans a unique and special opportunity to taste, tour, and learn about their vast array of offerings.