For Harmony Spirits’ owners, distilling is second nature

Harmony Spirits co-owner Jim Simpson fills a tasting glass with rum // Photo by Louis Livingston-Garcia

Now Open (Or Damn Close) is supported by underwriting partner Maltwerks, a Midwest malt house focused on genuine relationships in offering quality, locally produced, traceable malt. The Growler maintained full editorial control over the content.

Opening a distillery seemed like a logical next step for Harmony Spirits co-owner Jim Simpson and his other two co-owners, Andy Craig and Larry Tammel. Together, they already had 47 combined years of experience cooking, fermenting, and distilling.

“I worked at three different ethanol plants,” Simpson says. “Basically, making corn alcohol for fuel. So, we all worked together at a plant here in Minnesota.”

In 2005, their conversations centered around opening a brewery or distillery. They began visiting different breweries and distilleries to get a feel for what they wanted to make, or what flavors enticed them. They began to see more opportunity in opening a distillery in the area rather than a brewery, a market that they saw as a little over-saturated. On the other hand, Spring Grove’s RockFilter Distillery was the closest distillery before crossing the border into Wisconsin.

On the way back from Templeton Rye in Iowa, it struck the trio that they enjoyed touring microdistilleries over breweries and that with their experience in ethanol plants “we could take care of the [spirits] production,” Simpson recalled. “That part would be second nature to us.”

It took about six years for Harmony Spirits to get ready to launch. They started distilling in March 2019, with a soft opening in May and a grand opening last July.

Harmony Spirits in Harmony MN // Photo by Louis Livingston-Garcia

It’s been a success thus far, with the trio keeping everything as local as possible.

“We do everything local,” Simpson says. “Everything right in Fillmore county. All grain comes from the county. Craig grinds it on his dad’s farm; and the spent grain is fed to cattle on the same farm where it’s ground.”

“Our whole goal was to do everything local and everything ourselves. That’s been a little bit of a tougher road. We’re doing it all from scratch.”

The distillery has a tasting and cocktail room on-site and sells 375-milliliter bottles to patrons. The distillery also distributes bottles to local liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. The trio isn’t messing around when focusing on staying local.

Harmony Spirits tasting and cocktail room // Photo by Louis Livingston-Garcia

“Everyone lives around the area, with Chatfield being the furthest away,” Simpson says. “And Harmony really wanted us here. We got our lot for a dollar and built a new building.”

As for what they’re making, the team is split on what they enjoy.

“Larry and I are big fans of bourbon and whiskeys,” Simpson says. “Just to diversify the tasting room, and have something you could get out right away, it was nice to have vodka and rum for mixing.”

A cocktail range that changes seasonally is there to satisfy every guest who might not like straight whiskey.

Harmony Spirits barrels // Photo by Louis Livingston-Garcia

The tasting room has proven popular, and the team estimates they made around 8,000 proof gallons of spirits in 2019. They built the building with the intention of adding four feet on the west side and they want to build a racking house on the lot to the north in the future.

“We have room to expand in our current setup, but we’ll wait until the funding’s available,” Simpson says. “[Our] ultimate goal is 40,000 proof gallons, and that’s where we would like to sit.”

Though the distillery has goals of increasing capacity, they fully intend to keep their focus on staying loyal to the community.

“Full circle. Local. That’s our goal,” Simpson says. “We wanted to work for ourselves and keep the money in our community. That’s really the crux of the whole thing for us. We are local and going to do it local.

From left: Harmony Spirits co-owners Jim Simpson and Larry Tammel // Photo by Louis Livingston-Garcia

Tasting notes:

Rum: An aroma of honey and toffee are followed by a delicate flavor of honey that finishes a tad sweeter. A smooth rum.

Bourbon barrel rum (still in development): Nice char, wood, and smoke.

Whiskey: Buttery with a spicy, clove-forward edge to it.

Vodka: Brimming with pear and apple, with a pleasant creaminess.

Bourbon whiskey: Oak, creamy butter, with a sweet maple finish. The maple presence is more prominent and lingers longer the more you sip.

Gin (still in development): An initial flavor of pine is offset with a lemony, citrus finish.

Address: 40 1st Avenue NW, Harmony, MN 55939

Hours: Fri & Sat: 12–9pm

Online: Website, Facebook, Instagram

Maltwerks is a Midwest malt house focused on genuine relationships in offering quality, locally produced, traceable malt. Maltwerks maintains close relationships with local farmers so brewers know exactly what barley was used and the characteristics they can expect. Maltwerks is a partner in globally sourced commodities and carries a wide variety of spices and botanicals for diversity in craft brewing.