Imported still will allow Valentine spirits to grow

The $1 million expansion will allow the Ferndale-based business to produce 10 times more spirits

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Ferndale-based spirit makers Valentine Distilling Co. celebrated a $1 million expansion at an open house event Thursday evening at the new production facility.

With the earthy aroma of spirits in their production stage fresh in the air, the festivities centered around a massive, shiny copper still that was shipped in from Italian distillation company Frilli.

It’s the first vessel of its kind ever shipped to the United States, and with a 1,500-gallon capacity, it’s one of the largest ever placed in a micro-distillery stateside. The custom-made still is called Sherbert.

The new still and 20,000-square-foot facility at 965 Wanda in Ferndale will allow the award-winning distillery produce about 10 times more spirits.

“Our biggest problem right now is capacity, so with this still, Sherbert, we’ll be able to put down close to 1,000 barrels a year,” said founder Rufino Valentine at Thursday’s event. “It’s a substantial increase.”

“This is a traditional, European-style whiskey still,” he said of Sherbert. “And that’s what we do differently ... we still make bourbon and rye whiskeys, which are American whiskeys ... but we do triple-pot distillation rather than column distillation. So that’s one of the reason that we opted for this manufacturer.”

The batch that began inside Sherbert this week won’t be bottled until 2023.

Valentine, who started this company about 10 years ago, said they moved the production operation from the original location, Valentine Distilling cocktail lounge at 161 Vester near downtown Ferndale, about four years ago, and recently added even more space to the production house.

Ferndale Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Pawlica and other community officials spoke at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. Pawlica thanked Valentine for staying in the city as it grows.

“Ferndale is a great placed to start out a business because we have everything that a small business needs to succeed ... access to the community, a great workforce, a safe community ... but as businesses grow and expand they need more room and Ferndale doesn’t have a lot of room,” he said. “Many businesses choose to leave Ferndale but for those who stay, for those who choose to work with the city to find the solution that makes it work for everyone, those businesses we need to celebrate.”

Valentine products are available in seven states, including Michigan, as well as several countries. Rufino Valentine hinted at an expanded distribution footprint in the near future thanks to the new still, and said an announcement would be in a few weeks.

The award-winning Valentine product line includes world champion Valentine Vodka, Valentine White Blossom Vodka, Liberator Gin, Liberator Old Tom Gin (barrel-aged), and various styles of Mayor Pingree bourbon whiskey.

At this time the production facility on Wanda is not open to the public for tours, but that may change in the future, Valentine said. The cocktail lounge on Vester is open 4:30-11 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 4:30 p.m-1 a.m. Fri.-Sat. and noon-6 p.m Sun.

Twitter: @melodybaetens