Cedar Ridge

Lost Lantern’s Guide to Midwest Distilleries

Welcome to Lost Lantern’s guide to Midwest distilleries! Our Midwest Collection, launching March 27, 2024, is a celebration of Midwestern whiskey. The Midwest is a region that’s making truly excellent whiskey, much of which is not widely known outside of the region. We are doing our best to help raise that awareness and help people discover the amazing whiskies of the Midwest.

The Midwest Collection itself highlights six distilleries via six single casks and Far-Flung Rye, our blend of Midwestern ryes.  Those distilleries are Starlight in Indiana, Tom’s Foolery and Middle West in Ohio, Wollersheim in Wisconsin, FEW Spirits in Illinois, and Cedar Ridge in Iowa. We’ve also previously worked with Watershed in Ohio. But these are far from the only great Midwestern distilleries, although they are certainly some of our very favorite ones. But we encourage everyone to explore Midwestern whiskey as widely as they can. This guide to notable Midwestern distilleries, including our partners and many others, is a great starting point. And even this list isn’t exhaustive: we encourage you to explore yourself and share your favorites!

 

Lost Lantern Midwest Distillery Guide

ILLINOIS Distilleries

FEW SpiritsEvanston, IL
Lost Lantern partner

FEW Spirits in Evanston, Illinois is one of the pioneers of American craft spirits, FEW has distilled award-winning grain-to-glass whiskies since 2011 in a unique urban setting on the outskirts of Chicago.

Lost Lantern releases:

READ: FEW Spirits Guest Post: Sydney Jones on Distilling in the Midwest

KOVAL – Chicago, IL

Koval, the oldest distillery in Chicago and the first since the mid-1800s, is one of the few distilleries that produces organic spirits. They also work extensively with unusual grains: their flagship bourbon, for instance, is made with 51% corn and 49% millet. Their cranberry gin is also worth seeking out.

WHISKEY ACRES – DeKalb, IL

Whiskey Acres is one of a very small handful of American distilleries that grows all its own grain. They are best known for their experiments with various heirloom varieties of corn, which they grow and track with incredible precision on their large, multi-generation Illinois farm. Their bourbons and other whiskies serve to remind us that whiskey is fundamentally an agricultural product, born of the land, and that this is part of what makes it so special.

BLAUM BROS.Galena, IL

The Blaum brothers (and yes, they are actually brothers) first made their name in sourced MGP whiskey, but making their own whiskey was the plan all along: they just wanted to make sure they could take the time to age it and get it right before releasing anything. Now, more than 10 years later, their bourbon and rye are well worth seeking out. 

INDIANA Distilleries

STARLIGHTStarlight, IN
Lost Lantern partner

Ted Huber started Starlight Distillery in 2001 to capture the flavors of Indiana grain and fruit from the place his family has farmed for seven generations. Starlight Distillery is part of Huber’s Orchard & Winery, an Indiana institution since 1843, and is in fact a revival of a family distilling legacy: the Hubers were distilling brandy in the area way back in the early 1800s. Today, Starlight makes a wide range of whiskies and brandies. Just a stone’s throw from Kentucky–Starlight is actually closer to Louisville than many of the big names in Kentucky bourbon–the distillery has become a darling of bourbon lovers on the East Coast.

Lost Lantern releases:

SPIRITS OF FRENCH LICKFrench Lick, IN

Spirits of French Lick is a distillery born out of a long and mostly forgotten local distilling tradition. Its particular corner of southern Indiana was heavily influenced by German immigrants, who brought their own distilling traditions to the area. Today, Spirits of French Lick has won renowned for its Indiana bourbons, wheat whiskies, and other, more unusual spirits, all crafted by head distiller Alan Bishop. Alan Bishop is a lifelong Southern Hoosier with a long family history of distilling and wants the distillery’s whiskies to reflect the region and the character of the locally grown grain. 

HARD TRUTH DISTILLINGNashville, IN

Hard Truth recently burst onto the whiskey scene with a range of impressive whiskies. One to watch for the future!

IOWA Distilleries

CEDAR RIDGESwisher, IACedar Ridge
Lost Lantern partner

Many of the distilleries we work with have a strong local following. But none of them can match Cedar Ridge, a truly beloved family-owned Iowa distillery that has achieved a once-unimaginable feat. Cedar Ridge’s flagship Iowa bourbon is the top-selling bourbon in Iowa, outselling even big name, mass-market bourbons. Cedar Ridge’s bourbon and its other whiskies have their own distinctive character (notably a soft, creamy texture), born from the dramatic seasonal temperature swings of the Great Plains. Cedar Ridge is one of Lost Lantern’s most frequent partners, as you’ll see below. We have worked with them since our very first release, and they are the only distillery that has appeared in every one of our core label colors. 

Lost Lantern Releases:

READ: Cedar Ridge Guest Post: Murphy Quint on Winning the Hearts of Iowans

MICHIGAN Distilleries

NEW HOLLAND – Holland, MI

New Holland is best known as a brewery, but they’ve been distilling bourbon and malt for a long time now too. Their flagship bourbon is finished in casks that previously held their flagship beer: Dragon’s Milk stout. It’s one of the best and most unique finished bourbons we’ve had anywhere in the country, and absolutely worth hunting down.

TWO JAMES – Detroit, MI

Located in downtown Detroit, Two James makes a variety of whiskies, including a range of ryes and playfully inventive offerings that don’t fit clearly into a standard category, like peated bourbon and a blended whiskey proofed down not with water but with Japanese tea (it’s designed explicitly for enjoying with ramen!).  

GRAND TRAVERSE – Traverse City, MI

Grand Traverse Distillery is one of the first wave of American craft distilleries, and when it opened in 2005 it was the first distillery in Northern Michigan. The distillery is best known for its well-aged bourbons and ryes. 

MAMMOTH DISTILLING – Traverse City, MI

Located in northern Michigan, Mammoth is best known for its experiments with heirloom rye. It has worked extensively to revive the heirloom Rosen rye and grows it in isolation on South Manitou Island in northern Lake Michigan.

MINNESOTA Distilleries

FAR NORTH SPIRITSHallock, MN

One of the country’s only estate distilleries, and the northernmost distillery in the continental United States. Best known for their comprehensive, systematic scientific experiments on rye strains that grow well in a cold northern climate, they also make bourbon and gin.

READ: Far North Spirits GUEST POST: Mike Swanson on The Soil of the Midwest

VIKRE DISTILLERY – Duluth, MN

Talk about a cold climate! Vikre Distillery is located in Duluth, Minnesota, along the shores of Lake Superior. In fact, the distillery itself is just feet from the lake. Vikre is well-known both for its whiskies (particularly rye), made with locally grown Minnesota grain, and its range of boreal gins and aquavits, made with foraged wild botanicals.

O’SHAUGHNESSY DISTILLING – Minneapolis, MN

Located in Minneapolis, O’Shaughnessy is a large and ambitious distillery that aims to bring together the best traditions of both Irish and American whiskey–and they aren’t kidding around. Their master distiller, Brian Nation, was previously the master distiller at Midleton, the most important distillery in Ireland. O’Shaughnessy makes triple distilled American pot still whiskey. Their flagship, Keeper’s Heart, is a blend of Irish and American whiskey. This is one to watch in the years ahead.

MISSOURI Distilleries

Plus a bonus one from Kansas!

StiLL 630St. Louis, MO

An urban distillery in the heart of St. Louis, StiLL 630 makes powerful pot-distilled whiskies, including several award-winning ryes, a unique sorghum whiskey, and a variety of other spirits. 

HOLLADAYWeston, MO

Founded in 1856, Holladay is likely the oldest distillery in the Midwest, and it looks more like a historic Kentucky distillery than a modern craft distillery. That’s because its history is deep and authentic, and it has continued to operate as a distillery throughout most of its history. More recently, it has been extensively modernized and rededicated to bourbon production. This has quickly brought it a lot of attention and excitement, deservedly so.

J. RIEGERKansas City, MO

J. Rieger was a historic whiskey brand in the Kansas City area in the 19th century, but it died during Prohibition. Nearly a century later, it has been reborn, thanks to a collaboration between one of the city’s star bartenders and the latest generation of the Rieger family. As in the 19th century, the distillery is focused on bourbon, rye, and its own unique Kansas City Whiskey, which is a blend of bourbon, rye, corn whiskey, and a small amount of oloroso sherry!

UNION HORSELenexa, KS

This distillery, on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metropolitan area, firmly identifies as Midwestern, and who are we to argue (the U.S. Census does include Kansas as part of the Midwest, after all, and it’s not nearly as flat as farther west in the state, in the Great Plains)? This distillery makes excellent bourbon and rye and focuses on local grains.

OHIO Distilleries

MIDDLE WEST Columbus, OH
Lost Lantern Partner

Now one of the largest independent distilleries in the country, Middle West had humble beginnings but has grown rapidly to become a true force in American whiskey. Best known for their pumpernickel rye whiskey, as well as their bourbons. They are large enough that they also produce whiskey for several other distilleries around the country. 

Lost Lantern Releases:

WATERSHEDColumbus, OHMidwest Distilleries
Lost Lantern Partner

Founded in 2010, Watershed Distillery’s meticulous production methods, commitment to local ingredients, and innovations with grain have resulted in an impressive range of spirits. Based in Columbus, Ohio, the distillery has developed an incredibly devoted statewide following. It also owns and operates one of the best restaurants in all of Columbus, making Watershed uniquely well situated at the intersection of whiskey and food.

Lost Lantern releases:

TOM’S FOOLERYChagrin Falls, OHTom's Foolery Still
Lost Lantern partner

Located in Northeast Ohio, Tom’s Foolery is a family-owned distillery that makes whiskey using traditional, labor-intensive methods, including pot still distillation. The small distillery has nearly as much in common with the small farm distilleries scattered across Cognac and Normandy as it does with America’s bourbon tradition. The distillery even makes brandy! The entire process at Tom’s Foolery is deliberately hands-on and low-tech, every aspect of the process guided by experience and sensory evaluation rather than computers and spreadsheets. Their process is also connected to nature, and the distillery makes every effort to allow the regional climate–not far from the shores of Lake Erie, in an area with cold, snowy winters and temperate summers–to influence the whiskey as nature chooses.

Lost Lantern releases:

READ: Tom’s Foolery Guest Post: Tom Herbruck on Maturing Whiskey in a Cold Climate

WISCONSIN Distilleries

WOLLERSHEIMPrairie du Sac, WIWollersheim on Wisconsin, Whiskey, and Brandy
Lost Lantern partner

With roots dating back to the 19th century, Wollersheim is a family-owned distillery that has revived a long tradition of Wisconsin distilling. Its brandies and grain-to-glass whiskies truly reflect Wisconsin’s climate and long agricultural heritage. It’s also home to a substantial winery, which has deep roots: in fact, some of their vineyards were originally planted by Agoston Haraszthy, who later made his way farther west and became one of the most important pioneers of the California wine industry!

Lost Lantern releases:

READ: Wollersheim Guest Post: Wollersheim on Wisconsin, Whiskey and Brandy

45TH PARALLELNew Richmond, WI

Located in the outer exurbs of Minneapolis but on the Wisconsin side of the border, 45th Parallel quietly makes some of the finest bourbon, rye, and other whiskies in the upper Midwest (we’ll be honest: we’ve been trying to get a barrel or two from them for years. One of these days!). They also make exceptional white spirits, including a dill aquavit and a horseradish vodka.

DRIFTLESS – GLENBaraboo, WI

Located in the Driftless region, a rare region of the upper Midwest that was never glaciated and is thus unusually rocky, Driftless Glen makes Wisconsin bourbon and rye and has achieved some national recognition among whiskey lovers for its spirits.

DANCING GOATCambridge, WI

Best known for its sourced Limousin Rye, Dancing Goat’s own whiskey will be well-worth the wait: this large distillery has serious talent behind it and the largest Headframe stills we’ve ever seen. 

COPPER CROW – Bayfield, WI

One of the country’s only Indigenous-owned distilleries, Copper Crow makes rye, starka (barrel-aged vodka), and other spirits in far northern Wisconsin, right near the shores of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

 

What other Midwestern distilleries have you fallen in love with? Feel free to reach out and let us know!