THREE OAKS, Mich. — A maker of handcrafted whiskey could become even more of a destination for residents of Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area.
Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks is planning to construct a Kentucky-style rickhouse for storing and aging up to 7,000 barrels of whiskey.
The wood-framed, metal-sided structure of over 9,000 square feet would also contain space for weddings and other gatherings, along with a tasting room. The facility would also be open for tours.
Owner Bill Welter said the rickhouse should give people even more of a reason to visit since rickhouses are typically found only in Kentucky.
The Bluegrass State produces and ages about 95% of the world’s bourbon whiskey, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.
“I think it’ll be a huge tourist attraction. Michigan’s first and only Kentucky-style rickhouse,” Welter said.
Journeyman Distillery, founded in 2010, makes about a half dozen whiskey products, including bourbon. Distribution has grown from 19 to 30 states.
Welter said the goal is to have product on shelves in 10 more states by the end of 2022.
The Three Oaks Village Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a zoning change on 17 acres for the project, close to the existing facility at the historic Featherbone Factory building.
Final approval rests with the Three Oaks Planning Commission after it reviews the site plans.
Welter said production would not increase since the distillery already stores up to 7,000 barrels of whiskey. Currently, storage is on site and inside other nearby buildings.
Welter said the unheated rickhouse would provide the proper environment for whiskey to age, since they’re designed to maximize air flow, changes in outside temperature, humidity and other related elements believed to impact flavor.
The oak charred barrels of whiskey will be stored on five levels of racks for three to eight years prior to bottling.
Welter said the product is already high quality but existing storage lacks what rickhouses bring in terms of flavor.
“We actually think it’s going to help enhance our product,” he said.
The plans also include an outdoor trail and pickle ball courts open for customers and public use.
Resident Jason Milovich, owner of Bluefish Vacation Rentals, said the distillery being a popular tourist destination is a major factor in the revitalization of downtown.
“I’ve been here long enough to see a town that was bankrupt and a downtown that was anything but thriving. It’s what we need to continue this commerce,” he said.