Take a Tour of Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. in Galena, IL

Blaum Bros. Distilling Company in Galena opened just over five years ago and a tour is a must-do if you're visiting this charming historic area in Western Illinois.

On a recent visit I had the opportunity to sit down with Matt Blaum and hear a little about how he and his brother, Mike, got started and how the distillery has grown.

"When we started, we didn't do it to make vodka or gin," he said. "We were whiskey nerds who wanted to make whiskey."

Blaum said some distilleries try to speed up the process by using smaller barrels, "but people who drink whiskey can tell the difference," he said. They're using big barrels and aging their whiskey for a long time - the old fashioned way. It takes a lot of patience.  He noted that they could rush through making something easier to sell to tourists, like a flavored moonshine, but that they're more interested in making a reputable product.

Matt Blaum

It seems to be working for them. Last year they sold the maximum amount of their product that they could under current liquor laws. In Illinois, you can't sell more than 2500 gallons at the distillery where it's produced (they are able to produce more than is available through distributors). In December, they hit that limit. In the midst of the holiday season, they could still do tours and had held back enough to make cocktails in their tasting room, but the shelves in the store were bare.  They're the only Illinois distillery to hit that limit so far.

One of their most popular sellers is a vodka infused with peppers called Hellfire Vodka. Blaum explained that it was something that was really just intended as a one-time experiment to make Bloody Marys. Again, they could go an easier route, but they prefer to do it the hard way, cutting and de-seeding half of the peppers to infuse the flavor. "We could order a chemical and be done in an hour, but we didn't do this to make a buck overnight," said Blaum. "We're looking for longevity."

So, what are the Blaum Brothers the most proud of? Whiskey, of course. Their 4-year Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the oldest Illinois distilled bourbon that is ready available. That's out of 31 distillery licenses in the state. "As two guys were were bourbon nerds, that's our baby," said Blaum. Their 4-year rye will be release soon, as well.

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. products can be found at Binny's and Mariano's stores and many of Chicago's trendy restaurants, including Girl and the Goat and RPM Steak.

If you are in the Galena area, stop by to visit the gift shop, have a drink in the tasting room and take a tour. Tours are done every day at 3 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, there's also an 11 a.m. and a 1 p.m. tour and on Sundays, there's also a 1 p.m. tour. Tours take about 45-minutes. They start in the tasting room and take you through the distillery floor where you get a little history on the company and on distilling. You end back in the tasting room where you get to try some of the spirits. The tour is $10 and kids under 14 are free. For more information, visit blaumbros.com.

**I was hosted with a complimentary tour. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co.
9830 W. US Highway 20
(815) 777-1000