On a recent drive to Canada, I became far too curious to simply ignore the roadside sign that said, “Visit Panther Distillery” in Osakis, MN. Despite my rush to get to a wedding the next day, I simply had to pull off of Interstate 94 and poke around.
Panther Distilling is Minnesota’s first craft distillery, founded by Adrian Panther, a medical sales professional turned hobbyist. They are best known for their Minnesota 14, an aged whiskey named in honor of the Minnesota 13 bootlegged during prohibition.
Although the visit was brief due to my timeline, I did take a brief tour which revealed a few interesting points about the place.
First, all washes are fermented in open vats. Sure it was shocking to see, but considering that the kinda-beer goes through distillation at extremely high temperatures repeatedly, there is little concern for sanitation. The yeast burps away for all to see in a yellow-tan sludge.
Using corn, rye, and wheat from local farms, Panther blends different grains into their signature spirits. Their newest addition, Pike Street wheat bourbon, uses 30% wheat, and the rye whiskey contains 30% rye. The remainder of each spirit is corn — the brewery goes through up to 8,000 pounds of kernels per day!
Panther is not able to serve on site per Minnesota law. Their sampling process involves purchasing a $10 glass and tasting 3 1/2 ounce samples. We opted to buy our own bottle of Minnesota 14 from the nearby liquor store and enjoy it later rather than rush to get back on the road.
Panther is a fun little place to visit for those traveling northwest from the Twin Cities. The staff were lovely and very enthusiastic, and they allowed us to ask many questions.
Look for their new Pike Street, pictured at right, in many liquor stores and restaurants. Also, watch out for their Spiked Apple, a 30-proof spiced spirit, perfect for the upcoming holidays.