Detroit Distillery on tap for Orchard Lake Road

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published August 14, 2014

FARMINGTON HILLS — Bottoms up, Farmington Hills. A distillery — the first of its kind in the city — will open up soon.

During a July 28 City Council meeting, council members voted 7-0 for Detroit Distillery LLC to open up shop and operate a small distillery at 20780 Orchard Lake Road, near Eight Mile Road.

The business’s opening, either this year or next, is based on how soon they are licensed with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

With an idea of bringing Michigan-made vodkas, liqueurs and rum “to a store or bar near you,” the distillery is co-owned by Matthew Defever, Don Drozd, Jeremy Tuggle and John Waisanen.

Tuggle said their first product, a rum-like liqueur, is made from Michigan-grown sugarbeets.

“That is kind of our motto,” Tuggle said during the meeting. “We want to use all Michigan-local ingredients for our products. So that will be our first product, and we plan to grow from there.”

City Councilman Michael Bridges asked if the distillery will have any other opportunities to use sugarbeets in other forms of liqueurs or spirits.

Tuggle said the company can also use sugarbeets as a base for vodka.

City Clerk Pam Smith said during the meeting that Tuggle contacted the city to request to operate a small distillery.

To operate a distillery in the city, MLCC  approval is required, according to city ordinance. Being a small distillery allows them to acquire additional permits through the MLCC, which would permit on-site consumption, though they are required to abide by local codes and ordinances, Smith added. Because the distillery would have off-premise alcohol consumption, nothing in city ordinance would prohibit the operation, she said.

“If they were going to do that and sell the liquor for on-site consumption, according to our ordinance, it would have to be done in conjunction with a restaurant operation. However, that is not their intent,” Smith said.

Detroit Distillery is allowed to have a tasting room or sample room in the establishment, Smith said.

Mayor Barry Brickner said the distillery “is a first for us.”

“We’ve never had a distillery in our town,” he said.

He added that because the distillery is small, in addition to samplings, they may sell alcohol around the premises, or sell it to distributors, but not directly to retailers.

“We have a limit to what we can sell,” Tuggle said. “We have a unique ability to sell directly.”

Currently, the co-owners have daytime jobs, including working in the automotive and engineering industries, and the distillery is a “kind of a side business for us,” Tuggle said.

Councilman Kenneth Massey asked Tuggle if they have plans to expand.

“When it is financially feasible for us, we are going to be expanding to other types of liqueurs, like vodkas,” he said.

“I’ve heard there is a lot of interest in doing that,” Massey said, also asking who their clientele will be.

“We feel there will be a wide range of customers,” Tuggle said. “We like to keep it kind of small batch so we can kind of experiment.”

Bridges said the state is “blessed” with a significant quantity of sugarbeets, particularly in the Saginaw/Bay City area.

“I used to live up there and smelled them all the time during harvest time,” he said smiling.

Tuggle added that he and DeFever are familiar with that area, being graduates of Saginaw Valley State University.

Tuggle said all that remains is passing all of their licensing. The business has been in the application process with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau — under the Treasury Department — for almost three years.

According to an April 29 Facebook post from Detroit Distillery LLC, the company received its license with the ATTB.

“Now we need approval from the state and local authorities, and our moms,” the post reads.

Tuggle said that although their application for the license was recently approved, the next step was to obtain licensing with the MLCC, which was also recently finalized.

“This is our last in the process, getting this approval. Then we can move on,” Tuggle said.

After receiving well wishes from Brickner, Bridges congratulated them, also.

“We look forward to sampling your product,” he said.

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