Traverse City Whiskey Co. readies to open its first downstate tasting room in Ferndale
After putting some finishing touches on the space this week, including a chandelier made out of bourbon barrels, Traverse City Whiskey Co. will be ready to make its downstate debut as early as this weekend.
The tasting room in Ferndale will be the first presence the craft distillery has outside of its production facility and rustic tasting room in Traverse City. Dubbed the Outpost for short, this lounge will serve cocktails and food, offer education on the spirit and provide a retail space to purchase whiskey and all sorts of Traverse City Whiskey Co. merchandise.
The Outpost is in a renovated space where the long bar of Como's pizza restaurant used to be. That Ferndale mainstay has been completely gutted and re-imagined by Peas & Carrots Hospitality group and re-emerged this spring. The whiskey tasting room shares a back entryway, but has its own front entrance and operates independently of Como's.
“Our focus at the tasting room is a little different than most bars or restaurants with bars or maybe even tasting rooms," said Chris Fredrickson, president and co-founder. "We’re really big on one, hospitality, what we call ‘northern-style hospitality,’ and a pretty enthusiastic education. Our goal both here and at the still house up in Traverse City is making sure that when you come in you leave smarter on whiskey and spirits in general than when you arrived."
To do that, the company has hired and extensively trained 16 employees to man the Ferndale Outpost, which will serve Traverse City Whiskey Co's. entire portfolio including straight bourbon, barrel proof bourbon, port barrel finish bourbon, North Coast rye whiskey and the popular American cherry-infused whiskey. The hosts, bar backs and of course bartenders — all from Metro Detroit — will be heavily trained on the background of the company and whiskey in general.
Order a flight of spirits to contrast and compare, or choose from one of about a dozen classic cocktails (Manhattans, Old Fashioned, whiskey sours, etc.), which will range from $9-$12. Belly up to the 16-seat bar, or settle in to one of the few seats stretched across the long tasting room.
The Outpost, which has no age limit (families are welcome), will also have booze-friendly food like chartcuterie boards, pretzel bites, cheese curds and what Fredrickson calls "the best burger on the block," a double patty with "top tier" meat, American cheese and whiskey onions.
Like the tasting room up north, the Ferndale spot will offer some still house exclusives like the port barrel finish bourbon, served at both lower proof and the higher barrel proof.
As one of the leading craft spirits producer in the state, it's important for Traverse City Whiskey Co. to have a presence in Metro Detroit.
The company saw its first product hit shelves around 2012. About a year earlier, Fredrickson started the distillery with two friends from his Michigan State University days, Jared Rapp and Moti Goldring.
Fredrickson was inspired to start the company after he and his father found patents for distilling techniques owned by his great-grandfather that date back to the Prohibition era.
Those patents, which will eventually be hanging in the Ferndale tasting room, were discovered on the cherry orchard where Fredricksons' father is third-generation owner and operator. Naturally, the brand's cherry-infused whiskey is made with Montmorency sour cherries from the family orchard.
Fredrickson says one of the more noticeable differences between the Ferndale tasting room and the original in his home town is that Ferndale is a bit more refined and has that fresh remodel smell. He was responsible for building the original himself "back when we were still in start-up mode."
"The environment (in Ferndale) is more polished but it still breathes the same DNA that Traverse City carries," he said. "This tasting room is our opportunity to reach the Detroit market without a 4 1/2 hour drive."
Another difference between the TC and Ferndale tasting rooms is that while the up north watering hole is one of the most popular destinations in the city for dogs, the Ferndale spot will not allow pets because of their food service.
Traverse City Whiskey Co. — the Outpost, 22812 Woodward in Ferndale, could open as soon as this weekend. Once up and running, hours will be 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat. and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.