The Traverse City line has continued to expand. (photo courtesy of the brand)

When Chris Fredrickson was clearing out a storage facility on his family’s farm nearly a decade ago, he never expected to stumble across the catalyst for a whole new career.

The Traverse City, Mich. native grew up in a multi-generation cherry farming operation, and had stepped away from the family business to pursue a career in management consulting. Burned out after six years of travel and the corporate grind, he was helping his father sort through family artifacts when he discovered three sets of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office-approved distilling patents his great-grandfather had drafted decades ago. 

Inspiration struck, and it struck hard. Over a bonfire whiskey-drinking session, Fredrickson shared the patents with friends Jared Rapp and Moti Goldring, and the idea to launch Traverse City Whiskey Co. was born.

“Finding these patents came at a time in my life when my current business partners and I were looking for something we could call our own, something we were passionate about,” Fredrickson recalls. “Three years later, we all quit our full-time jobs to pursue running a whiskey distillery.”

The hungry young upstart quickly established itself as the ”Whiskey of the North,” relying on its American Cherry Edition (71% corn, 25% rye and 4% malt barley) as its entry-level product, segueing smoothly into a portfolio that also includes a Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a blended North Coast Rye and limited edition expressions like a Port Barrel Finished product and a premium small-batch Barrel Proof Bourbon. The result is a range of offerings that appeal to bourbon drinkers on all levels, from novices to aficionados.

Anyone newish to bourbon will appreciate the easy-drinking characteristics of the Cherry Edition, especially when paired with cola for a killer cherry Coke or simple syrup and sour mix to create a refreshingly sweet-tart cherry sour.

In a nod to terroir (Traverse City bills itself the “Cherry Capital of the World,” after all), the operation puts cherries front and center, infusing the signature whiskey with Montmorency Sour Cherries from Fredrickson’s own family farm and jarring its own line of gourmet cocktail cherries for garnishes. The company also sources all of its corn, rye, and barley from Midwest suppliers.

When COVID-19 restrictions relax, customers can once again sample the wares at the Stillhouse tasting room (and get a peek at a handsome 400-gallon custom Kothe still) in downtown Traverse City and tour a rural production facility just outside town. In the meantime, Traverse City Whiskey Co. products are available through a network of distributors across the country and on their website.