FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Grand Traverse Distillery Straight Bourbon

Grand Traverse Distillery is one of the many (many…many) craft distilleries in America that is jockeying for the attention of whiskey drinkers all over the country. However something else you might not know is that unlike many of those distilleries, Grand Traverse has been around for well over a decade having released their first products in 2007.

So I was just as in the dark about them as many of you might be when my father came home from a golf trip to Michigan and brought me a bottle of their straight bourbon. Upon further investigation I found out that this team has a wide catalogue of spirits including some vodka, a few gins, a rye whiskey, an Islay style rye, rum, and a finished rye. According to their website most grains are locally sourced and the company claims to have started the first legal micro distillery since prohibition - a common accolade in many states that are jumping into whiskey and spirits for the first time. The distillery also discloses their mash bills online and age their whiskey in full sized 53 gallon barrels.

Grand Traverse joins a growing Michigan distilling community that includes several including standouts like Journeyman Distillery and Traverse City Whiskey Co.

So let’s dive into Grand Traverse’s bourbon which, while not new, is new to ME.


- Distilled, aged, and bottled on site at Grand Traverse Distillery

- NAS (previous years have noted 3-3.5 yrs)

- 92 proof / 46% ABV

- 60% Corn / 30% Rye / 10% Barley

- Purchased for $59 from distillery

NOSE: I’m immediately hit with a rather distinct almost metallic and grassy note. Being completely honest this one did not hit pleasantly at first and on initial nosing I thought maybe it was a lot younger than I first suspected and these were harsh notes of youth. But while at the outset this may have put me off I kept going back and as these early notes faded it began to give way to a rather rich caramel and almost a cinnamon clove. On repeated nosing some banana bread comes through as well. With just a bit of persistence this one ends up rather nice.

PALATE: The higher rye presence is felt immediately with a nice waft of spice. There are lighter floral notes bounce off deeper, rich, vanillas in a rather pleasant fashion. Light banana notes come back in a little bit as well. The mouthfeel almost splits in two with a decent viscosity felt but as odd as this sounds, you can almost taste a lighter, thin layer above it.

FINISH: Medium with a decent warming effect concentrating on the middle palate.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: On first nosing after opening this I recall being extremely put off by that harsh grassy note. However, giving it some time to breathe, it opened it up a lot. The very high rye in this plays a part in making it rather unique as well - considering most “high rye” bourbons are somewhere around 20% (often less) and this is at 30. But I appreciate them disclosing the mash bill and where the grains come from. This was an interesting find as I did not go in expecting very much but have certainly come out a fan. This is a small distiller that very few are talking about and if you get a chance to take a sip I suggest you do and give it some time to develop as you taste.

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