Vikre (veek-ruh) is owned and operated by Joel and Emily Vikre. For all the details on them and how it all came to be, check out our Still Life profile and interview. The distillery is located in a historic canal park stone building, shared with a few other businesses. You enter from street level to find the reception and sales counter. (Unfortunately sales of the spirits are not allowed in Minnesota yet, so it's only merchandise sales for now). Up a short flight of stairs, you are greeted by a open and airy floor, divided into a welcoming tasting area complete with couches, table, and chairs, and a door separating the distilling area. It's separated, but lots of glass is used for the walls and doors preserving that open and bright feel. In fact, there is a vista out the back of the canal itself where one could watch the ocean-going ships go by. It's a nice spot to be.
The tour itself was conducted by Chelsy, who was very knowledgeable on the distilling process and Vikre's products. After the educational portion, it's on to the tasting portion. The tours are free and the tasting is $7, but that gets you a sample of four spirits and a Vikre glencairn to keep. This afternoon, none of the tour goers partook in the tasting, so I was treated to a solo tasting while my wife and I chatted with Chelsy. The tasting moves through their trio of gins: Boreal, Spruce, and Cedar. Boreal was the lighter more entry-level gin, with a classic gin flavor profile that's approachable for newbie's to craft gin. The Spruce was still light on its feet, but replaced some of the more juniper forward notes of the Boreal with piney spruce. Lastly, the more challenging and complex Cedar has dominant woody notes. However, it also rewards with more depth of flavor than the other two. After the gins, their Ovrevann Aquavit was poured. I haven't had a lot of aquavit, but this caraway and cardamom infused spirit is probably the best I've had. Seems like a great gateway aquavit, refreshing and more subtle than others I've had.
That was all four spirits, but after discussing our love of spirits and this very blog, Chelsy had a surprise spirit she was willing to let me try. Vikre is dabbling with aging their aquavit, so I got to taste a very early sample of what was aging in some used cognac barrels. I'll reserve judgement since this is not a final product, but it's intriguing and shows promise. I also learned Vikre is considering using their local ties to the lakes and ocean and might have a barrel of their gin age on one of the ocean-going vessels that come in and out of the Port of Duluth every day. There's certainly plenty afoot with Vikre Distillery.
Overall, the tour and tasting at Vikre Distillery are well worth the time and cost if you're in the area. So, next time your in Duluth or driving through, make a stop at Canal Park, grab a sandwich at the Smokehaus, and taste some great craft spirits at Vikre Distillery before you check out the lift bridge.
525 Lake Ave S. Suite 102 Duluth, MN
Tours: 3-8pm Thurs - Sat