By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In a way, J. Carver Distillery isn’t so different from the car dealership that used to sit on this land in Waconia. It’s still a showroom. They have a product line-up. And there’s an expert ready to help.

“Our passion, just like the namesake J. Carver, is the spirits of discovery,” Operations Director Gina Holman said.

Holman has spent more than 30 years selling alcohol, largely at the Wayzata Muni Liquor Store. Since 2014 she’s been making it at J. Carver.

So, what is the ultimate ambition of this small craft distillery?

“Really to put Minnesota on the map,” she said.

J. Carver is one of nearly 20 Minnesota companies distilling their own vodka and spirits. Their location in west suburban Waconia puts them close to the farmers who provide the corn, wheat and rye that shows up in every bottle.

“From farm-to-table, the locavore, everybody really caring about where is their food being sourced, where is their beer being sourced,” Holman said.

And now where their gin and whiskey is being sourced.

Vodka and gin are the first things J. Carver got to market, as they are the quickest to distill. Whiskey and bourbon take time. The barrel room is where J. Carver hopes magic will be happening.

“We call it the candy room. Our beautiful barrel room,” Holman laughed.

It’s the barrel gin, gin aged in whiskey barrels, which really put J. Carver on the map of the food scene. Restaurants like Spoon and Stable have come out here and selected their own, exclusive barrel to sell.

“Just like us, every barrel has its own personality. Some might have a little bit more of the cinnamon coming out in the gin. Some might have a little bit more of the toffee notes in the other barrels. And they say, ‘That’s the barrel we want,'” Holman said.

J. Carver has bourbon, rye whiskey, two vodkas and four types of gin. They also produce Apple Brandy and four types of Grappa.

“We don’t want to be a national brand, but we do see ourselves targeting certain cities outside of Minnesota,” Holman

To be considered a microdistiller, J. Carver can produce up to 40,000 proof gallons per year. That translates to nearly a quarter million bottles of spirits.

There’s a cocktail room in the old automotive service department, where Holman will help test-drive the fantastic product.

“If you drink too much whiskey you might need a coolant flush,” DeRusha joked.

J. Carver Distillery is located at 1320 Mill Lane in Waconia.

For more on what products they make, visit their Spirits section online.

Jason DeRusha

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