Journeyman Distillery's Bill Welter beside the main still. Welter runs the still largely on his own. He also opts to take the extra step and mill all his own grains. Whole-grain rye and wheat are delivered in massive sacks from organic growers in the Midwest and ground on the premises into flour.
July 9, 1923
A panoramic archival photo hangs in the tasting room, depicting workers outside the Featherbone Factory. In its heyday, the factory was the economic backbone of Three Oaks.
Belly of the beast
Welter says that one run of the still typically produces 50 liters of quality 180 proof distillate. Water is added to bring down the alcohol volume, thus yielding about 100 liters of new make per run. To create a sufficient product supply, the Journeyman still is running six days a week.
Journeyman's Kothe still features a bulbous top, which allows alcohol vapors to condense and revisit grain mash, picking up more flavors, before moving onto the vertical stack of chambers at left. Each chamber is separated by a plate that helps filter out unwanted impurities as the hot alcohol vapors pass through.
Whiskey is born
A pail catches a faint stream of distillate. Alcohol distills in three phases, which are known as heads, hearts, and tails—with the best quality coming from the hearts.
A hand-built shelf holds glass jars filled with fresh distillate from a production run that is underway.
Journeyman uses new oak barrels, coopered in Minnesota, to age its whiskey. The metal tanks hold undiluted distillate, which straight off the still clocks in at around 180 proof.
"The Learning Curve"
The first time Welter ran his still, he was still getting to know its temperament. It didn't exactly go perfectly, and the yield was low and inconsistent. Nevertheless, he decided to keep the batch around as a reminder of how far he's come as a distiller. Welter put it in a barrel and plans to check up on it every few years, to see if his "Learning Curve" becomes more pleasing with age.
The Journeyman product line
Presently only for sale on site, the fledgling distillery's current product line features W.R. Welter Whiskey (left), an unaged "white" whiskey, and Ravenswood Rye Whiskey. While the W.R. Welter has been produced off the Journeyman still in Three Oaks, the current batch of Ravenswood Rye was made in Chicago.
In order to have an aged product available when Journeyman opened its doors, Welter worked with Koval Distillery (located in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago) more than a year ago to produce a debut batch of rye on its still.
The concrete bar
The centerpiece of the distillery's tasting room is a slab-concrete bar that had to be hoisted into the building by crane.
The Journeyman guest book
Perched on the tasting room bar, Journeyman's handsome guest book has enough pages to seemingly last a lifetime. The feather in the logo is in honor of the Featherbone Factory.
Current tasting room hours are Fridays, 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sundays, 12 to 8 p.m.