Traverse City Celebrates Cherry Whiskey

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The cherry whiskey party continues in Traverse City, but this year, it’s in person.

The third annual Traverse City Cherry Whiskey Fest will be underway today in person, celebrating the release of

Traverse City Whiskey Co.’s Barrel Proof Cherry Whiskey.

While a 750ml bottle of the limited-edition release can only be purchased for $89.99 at The Stillhouse in Traverse City and The Outpost in Ferndale.

But if you don’t live near, you can purchase a Cherry Whiskey Fest kit, which includes 200 ml bottles of both the Barrel Proof Cherry and American Cherry Edition whiskeys, a jar of the brand’s own whiskey-laced cocktail cherries, a tasting glass and golf balls for $85.

The whole whiskey festival idea was born during the pandemic. “In 2020, the city’s cherry festival wasn’t held,” says Chris Frederickson, who founded the company ten years ago with his friends and business partners, Jared Rapp and Moti Goldring. “For the first time in 60 or 70 years, it was cancelled.”

Since its founding in 2012, Traverse City Whiskey Co. has become known for its cherry-laced whiskey, and over the years, “a lot of enthusiasts have asked ‘Why don’t you do a barrel-proof cherry?’” Frederickson says.

So, they not only distilled their very first barrel-proof edition in 2020, they decided to host an online event to celebrate its release and to also make up for the other cancelled cherry festival. The event was also held online last year to celebrate its release, but this year, it will be in person.

The cherry whiskey is made by infusing the bourbon with real cherries harvested in Traverse City. “Though it’s got a nose of cherry, it’s whiskey with a hint of cherry,” Frederickson says. “It’s not cherry with a hint of whiskey.”

The American Cherry Edition wasn’t their first whiskey, though. Their first whiskey was bourbon. The whole idea for the company came to Frederickson when he and his father had discovered his great-grandfather’s distilling patents, which he actually received during Prohibition. “He was an engineer for Dow, and he was tasked with evolving and updating their distilling techniques,” he says. “He was a legal distiller during Prohibition.”

That led Frederickson and his two friends to toss around the idea of starting a whiskey company. That was in 2011, and the next year, they purchased 20 barrels of 4-year-old bourbon from a contract distiller in Indiana. Those sold out so they purchased another 20 barrels, and then things slowly took off from there.

Today, besides their bourbon and their cherry whiskeys, they also make a Lakeside Peach, a Michigan Apple and a North Coast rye whiskey, along with a gin called Verse, canned whiskey highballs, and premium cocktail cherries that are laced with whiskey.

The cherry whiskey itself is the best-selling craft spirit in the state of Michigan, and it is the whiskey that put Traverse City Whiskey Co. on the map, Frederickson says.

“The cherry whiskey has been a bridge to bring so many people to the category,” he says.