Looking for a great new idea for date night, or something new to do with your gal pals or adult children? The Chicago area has a number of home-grown distilleries pumping out great product, and many of them offer tours and tastings. (Letherbee Distillers, makers of a killer Autumnal Gin, are production only, to my great sadness.) Tour the facility, learn a bit, and taste something special — and maybe take a bottle home. What a fun way to kick off an evening … or an afternoon!
564 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-707-8780
The Science of Alcohol Tour: Tuesdays and Saturdays, 5:30 p.m., $15/person
As could be expected from a brand that derives its name from the fundamental building blocks of alcohol, carbon and hydrogen, CH Distillery reveres the process and product of distillation equally. Using organic Illinois grains, CH produces more than 20 products, including vodka, rum, gin and liqueurs. The tour also includes “The Tradition,” a tasting of CH’s vodka, Russian-style (meaning ice-cold, accompanied by pickles and rye bread). After the tour, stay and enjoy craft cocktails — all composed of CH spirits and mixers made in-house — at the groovy bar, accompanied by some of the tastiest snacks around.
Must Sip: CH Key Gin, CH Fernet-Dogma
2359 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 872-206-2774
Tours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 6:30 p.m., $10/person
The DiPrizio family are third-generation distillers, and they opened this Logan Square distillery, dedicated to bringing craft spirits — made exclusively with Illinois grains — to market, in 2010. The tasting room is open to the public Thursday-Saturday from 5 p.m. on; the tour lasts about an hour and covers the brand’s history and distillation process, culminating in a tasting of three of their popular spirits. Private tours for 10 or more and on-site parties are available.
Must Sip: Ceres Vodka, Blind Tiger Bourbon Whiskey
918 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-920-8628
Tours: Thursdays, 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 2, 3:30 and 5 p.m., $10/person
Evanston lawyer Paul Hletko had a dream: to open the first distillery in the ancestral home of the Women’s Temperance Movement. The City of Evanston acquiesced, and FEW Spirits — named in playful homage to Temperance Movement founder Frances E. Willard — was born. Take the tour and discover what’s behind the scenes; a generous tasting follows.
Must Sip: FEW Barrel Gin, FEW Rye Whiskey
5121 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, 312-878-7988
Tours: Wednesdays, 7 p.m.; Thursday, 12:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 1, 3 and 5 p.m.; Sundays, 2 and 4 p.m., $10/person
Opened in 2008, Koval was Chicago’s first distillery built since the mid 19th century. Owners Robert and Sonat Birknecker are milling organic grains on-site, and then distilling them in a gorgeous handcrafted copper potstill brought in from Germany, using charcoal-purified Lake Michigan water. Every whiskey they make sees time in the inside of a bespoke oak barrel. In addition to tours, they also offer Whiskey Workshops and Cocktail Classes.
Must Sip: Koval Four Grain Whiskey, Koval Chrysanthemum and Honey Liqueur
13990 Rockland Road, Green Oaks, 847-574-2499
Tours: Thursdays, 6:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 p.m., $10/person
“Geek Out” Tour: first Saturday of the month, 3 p.m., $25/person
If you’re farther up the North Shore, you might consider a trip to Derek and Sonja Kassebaum’s North Shore Distillery, located between Lake Forest and Libertyville in a brand new facility. On the tour, you’ll meet Ethel the Still (follow her on Facebook and Instagram), instrumental in the creation of all North Shore spirits. If you’re just interested in a cocktail, a tasting or picking up some product, the shop is open Thursday-Sunday (visit the distillery’s website for hours).
Must Sip: Sol Chamomile Citrus Vodka, Distiller’s Gin No. 6
2010 W. Fulton St., Chicago
Tours: Thursdays, 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 3, 4:30 p.m., $10/person
Private Tour for 10 with full tasting of 10+ products, $375
Owned and operated by father-daughter team Charlie and Jennifer Solberg, Rhine Hall is making beautiful handcrafted fruit brandies in a light and airy space down in the West Loop. All the fruit is sourced from the Great Lakes region and distilled on site. Belly up to the Brandy Bar after the tour and discover that fruit brandies aren’t only for after dinner; cocktail classes also available.
Must Sip: Rhine Hall Apple Brandy, Rhine Hall Oaked Grappa
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