“My wife and I were out to dinner one night. We were mulling over options for a new business. I remember looking at the bar, all the bottles and saying, ‘I wonder if you could do a small distillery, like they have craft breweries and wineries.’ It got me thinking. The next morning, I started researching.
At the time, there were about 50 small craft distilleries in the country and none here. That intrigued me even more.
I thought we could make a better vodka. It was basically six months of research and two years of red tape. I attended workshops on distilling. We started selling Rehorst Vodka in October 2006. This is a Milwaukee product, so having that German, ethnic sound to the name wasn’t a bad thing.
We are the only beverage distillery in Wisconsin. I think a local company helps build a bond with the customer. They know if we did something wrong they could come down and wring our necks.
In Wisconsin, you have grains and potatoes. We did experiments with different grains, test batches, and to us, red wheat was the best.
We use Milwaukee water. I get a lot of concern about that. The fact is, brewers have been making beer with it for 150 years, and we have one of the largest freshwater reserves. It’s an excellent water for blending of spirits.
We filter and distill our vodka by taste as opposed to any hard-and-fast formula. There are a lot of variables in the mash and grain; to make sure the product is consistent, we tweak and tune as it’s being made. When we tell people it’s a small batch and craft thing, they’re shocked.
We don’t have the marketing budget Absolut has. We’re just a couple of guys making vodka.
Milwaukee has that reputation as a frugal town, but our product is a premium, and I’m quite amazed at the volume of premiums sold in this town. The common misconception is that brandy is the big drink in Wisconsin. It’s bigger than in most places, but vodka is the number one product consumed.
Being able to make the stuff during the day and, at night, go out and sell it – it’s the most fun I’ve had. There’s nothing I like more than getting in a conversation about our product. It’s a party all the time. ”
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