Glancing at all the new and unfamiliar products on the liquor store shelf, it may seem like the new Minnesota distilleries are coming out of nowhere.
“It’s been a long process,” though, says Michelle Winchester of Twin Spirits. The new Northeast distillery hopes to begin production and bottling by the end of this month.
For Winchester, it’s taken years since the idea first came to mind. While saving money and working toward opening, she’s also attended training sessions and professional seminars, found and purchased two buildings, and is finally in the throes of getting her licensing completed.
Once done, Twin Spirits will release its vodka, gin, rum, whiskey (eventually), and moonshine, with a cocktail room and more small-batch options hopefully not far behind, she says.
“Vodka will be the first product,” says Winchester. She uses Florida-grown sugarcane to produce the colorless spirit in a 100-gallon still inside her property at 2931 Central Ave. NE, formerly a photography studio on the same block as Chimborazo restaurant.
Converting from a studio to a distillery has been a trying process for Twin Spirits, with Winchester the sole owner and employee at this time. Her kids are nearly grown, and she wanted to re-enter the workforce in a creative job, which is why distilled spirits first caught her fancy.
“There was a conference for the American Distilling Institute and I went to a Women in Distilling exhibition and I got the bug,” she explains. “I really like the creativity piece to what you can do with different spirits and I like being different as a woman in a man’s world,” she adds. “I’ve raised four boys so I’m familiar with the male culture and grouping."
While many local distilleries focus on Minnesota-grown crops, by using sugarcane Winchester can make rum in addition to other spirits. She is also planning a somewhat secretive drink that features mushrooms, and she says there will be a new moonshine recipe each month, often with seasonal ingredients like honey or apples. And she will distill with less common grains like quinoa and spelt as opportunity arises.
The distillery itself is small, occupying the back half of the space with the front half dedicated to a soon-to-come cocktail room. That storefront will have 22 indoor seats and a 16-seat patio facing Central Avenue.
Winchester also bought the neighboring property, where she’ll warehouse barrels. Eventually she'd like to add a gluten-free kitchen.
“I’m gluten-free and I’m not interested in making something that I can’t eat,” she explains. “Everything will be gluten-free and then peanut-free. I have two kids that have deadly peanut allergies, and my 22-year-old should be able to go somewhere he feels safe.” The same, of course, goes for her spirits.
For now, Winchester is just excited to be through the red tape and getting into production. Twin Spirits will soon appear on local shelves. Once the bottles are rolling out she will shift full attention to a cocktail menu and final decorations, and licensing, on a cocktail room later this year.
Twin Spirits Distillery
2931 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis