BRANDY, YOU’RE A FINE GIFT

Your tours and tast­ings are pretty sweet, too.

Midwest Living - - Out & About - WRIT­ERS Ann Klein and An­drea Guth­mann

Build a pre­hol­i­day get­away around brandy, the stuff of hol­i­day cheer and the fuel be­neath the flames on a tra­di­tional figgy pud­ding. Sev­eral Mid­west dis­til­leries craft this sea­sonal fa­vorite and host tours that make buy­ing it a lot of fun. Add an overnight at a nearby bou­tique ho­tel, and you’ll re­ally have some­thing to toast—ditch­ing the crush at the mall and scor­ing a stash of host­ess gifts to get you all the way to the new year.

RHINE HALL DIS­TILLERY CHICAGO

TRY Oak-aged Ap­ple Brandy ($32) How fam­ily is this op­er­a­tion? Let’s start with the bike-pow­ered ap­ple chopper. Char­lie Sol­berg, an en­gi­neer, put it to­gether years ago so his kids and their friends could help keep his brandy-mak­ing hobby rolling every fall.

Now, on select Thurs­days, he or daugh­ter Jenny walks vis­i­tors through the in­dus­trial-chic dis­tillery they own in Chicago’s gritty Kinzie In­dus­trial Cor­ri­dor. The tast­ing room (open Wed­nes­day through Satur­day) sells cock­tails crafted with spir­its made from Great Lakes fruits.

Ex­tend your ex­cur­sion in the nearby Ful­ton Mar­ket District, a for­mer meat­pack­ing area buzzing with gal­leries, restau­rants and ho­tels, in­clud­ing the hip Ace Ho­tel.

JOUR­NEY­MAN DIS­TILLERY THREE OAKS, MICHI­GAN

TRY Fine Girl ($50)

You won’t find a cooler place for a get­away than The Flat at Jour­ney­man Dis­tillery. Split the tab with friends—there are five bed­rooms and al­most as many baths—and en­joy cafes, live theater and artists’ stu­dios in tiny Three Oaks, just a short drive up the lake from Chicago.

The dis­tillery, housed in a for­mer buggy whip and corset fac­tory (iron­i­cally, built by a pro­hi­bi­tion­ist), sources or­ganic fruits and grains from Mid­west farm­ers.

Fine Girl, made from citrusy Vi­dal Blanc grapes grown down the road, ages in bour­bon bar­rels with silky-sweet re­sults. Sam­ple it and 14 other spir­its at the dis­tillery or at Stay­maker restau­rant, where you can munch Detroit-style pizza on crusts made from the same grains that go into Jour­ney­man’s spir­its.

WOLLERSHEIM DIS­TILLERY PRAIRIE DU SAC, WIS­CON­SIN

TRY Co­quard Brandy ($32)

Peo­ple ar­rive by the bus­load to tour this his­toric win­ery’s mas­sive lime­stone build­ings and cave, and to browse its new dis­tillery in the hills over­look­ing the Wis­con­sin River.

The Wollersheim fam­ily re­leased Co­quard Brandy, its first spirit, in 2013. The dis­tillery pro­motes its Cognac-style brandy as a sip­per, but no­body will ar­gue if you ask for it as a cock­tail in the state that in­vented the brandy Old-fash­ioned.

From here, head south to Madi­son, where you’ll find gifts and fine choco­lates along Mon­roe Street. Check in at Hotelred to gaze out through floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows in the lobby and (cue the snow) cozy up by the big fire­place. Cheers.

Free Park­ing, an icy Rhine Hall con­coc­tion

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