Michelle Winchester wanted to get outside her comfort zone. She’s been a stay-at-home mom and part-time freelancer most of her life, and her four sons are mostly grown now. Her new adventure: taking what was once a boarded-up building in Northeast Minneapolis and starting Twin Spirits Distillery, the first solely woman-owned distillery in Minnesota set to open for business in early July.
Winchester and her husband have long enjoyed craft spirits, visiting distilleries in Scotland, London, and New York, to name a few. These visits are where Winchester conducted much of her research on the distilling process and the business as a whole. “I think I learned the most from going to distillery tours and sitting with distillers. They’d spend the whole afternoon answering any questions I had,” she reflects.
When Winchester and her husband attended a craft spirits conference, the decision to open a distillery was made. “I went into a ‘women in distilling’ breakout session, and I just drank the Kool-Aid,” says Winchester. The best advice she received was simply to “just do it.”
To prepare, Winchester took classes to learn distilling and brought on a graphic designer, Erin Dosh. Soon, Dosh became much more than just a designer: Following three days in Sturgis, spent installing a still, Winchester invited Dosh on as her assistant distiller. For Winchester, the hire was easy, given Dosh’s experience with foraging for ingredients and making cheese, a highly technical process.
It was Winchester’s husband who originally dubbed the distillery Twin Spirits. While the title didn’t impress Winchester at first, it grew on her, and she started to recognize duality everywhere in her life. From the obvious tie to the Twin Cities to more personal connections, such as surviving the same rare form of cancer that claimed the life of a friend, the name took on significance for Winchester.
Unlike most local distilleries, Winchester purchased her building rather than leasing. The purchase has brought plenty of paperwork and delays, but rather than complain about it, Winchester is taking it in stride, completing what areas of construction she can while waiting for the necessary approvals.
The result is a beautiful distillery, complete with a sunny upstairs office atop a spiral staircase, a spacious patio, and an unfinished 22-person cocktail room filled with equipment. Winchester says she hopes to open in July.
In addition to her distillery and cocktail room, Winchester also purchased a warehouse space across the parking lot from Twin Spirits. Eventually, the location will potentially also be used for events and/or yoga classes.
At 1,700 square feet, Twin Spirits is on the small side of its local distillery peers, but that isn’t keeping Winchester from setting big goals. She plans to use her two 100-gallon stills and three 26-gallon test stills to create four different spirits (vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey) and concoct a range of unique recipes using infusions and unexpected ingredients, including an entirely new mushroom variety. Winchester also plans to distill a specialty moonshine each month on the full moon.
Twin Spirits will launch with a vodka, which Winchester will then use as the base for one of her gins. More gin, as well as rum and whiskey, will follow. Sales will begin out of the cocktail room in the form of 375mL bottles. If all goes according to plan, people across the country will be able to purchase Twin Spirits liquors, thanks to a partnership with Breakthru Beverage.
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Photos by Aaron Davidson, The Growler
Distiller: Michelle Winchester (head distiller), Erin Dosh (assistant distiller)
Spirits: Vodka, Gin, Rum, Whiskey
Location: 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis