Updated: May 3, 2019
Michigan has experienced a massive increase in the number of micro-distilleries over the last seven years. It first started as wineries, then breweries, and now distilleries have become the new destination hot-spot. So how did we decide to open a fully operational micro-distillery? If you think about what Michigan was ten years ago, the main attraction was the wineries and some breweries. It wasn’t until 2005 that Michigan saw its first micro-distillery pop up. This is where Grand Traverse Distillery comes into play, and how I opened one of the original distilleries of Michigan.
My name is Kent Rabish, and I’m the owner of GTD. The distillery was founded 13 years ago with my partner in crime and life, Peg. How did we get such a crazy idea to open a distillery? It’s quite the story and dates all the way back to my upbringing in Pinconning, Michigan. I grew up working on my grandfather’s farm doing everything from working the harvest to collecting rocks from the fields. Farming taught me that if you work hard enough, then you’ll see how your work paid off by reaping the rewards in the form of crops. Fast forward to my first job out of college working in pharmaceutical sales, which is not at all the reap your rewards kind of situation. It took me 30 years of working in sales to realize that I missed the rewarding feeling of creating a product with my own two hands. As much as I loved sales, it was time to move onward and upward to better opportunities; spirits.
In 2001, I visited some friends out in Oregon, and I had my first opportunity to see an American micro-distillery in action. I was blown away by the quality of the spirits for being such a small operation. That trip to Oregon inspired me to switch gears from pharmaceutical sales to a small business owner and micro-distiller. We established Grand Traverse Distillery in 2005 as the first micro-distillery to distill from grain in Michigan, and by 2006 we built our first building, which would become our production site for the next 12 years. When we started in 2005, there were 30 craft distilleries, and now there are over 2,500 nationwide. I saw an opportunity to fill a marketplace, and now it's become one of Michigan's most significant industries in tourism.
The point of this blog is to inform you of the micro distilling industry and to be able to tell my side of the story from a first-hand perspective. Owning a distillery is no easy feat, but my passion has become my dream, and to be able to share it with you guys is the goal. Check back to get the inside scoop on the juicy details of the distilling industry!