Spirits rising as Lansing's first distillery readies to open downtown

Lansing is keeping its spirits up this spring as the city's first distillery opens downtown across from Cooley Law School Stadium.
American Fifth Spirits will usher in the manufacture and distribution of artisan spirits in a 4,600-square foot building at 112 N. Larch. Owner and head distiller Rick Wyble says American Fifth will also promote Lansing's cocktail culture through a tasting room and programs that educate consumers on the nature and production of distilled spirits.
Wyble says his dual business model makes American Fifth standout as a producer of spirits that will eventually include vodka, gin, whiskey, brandy, rums, absinthe and liqueurs.
"The tasting room aspect allows customers to see and experience where everything is made and to build that knowledge base in our customers," says Wyble. "And manufacturing allows us to distribute."
American Fifth's first product—Hue Vodka—was released last November, and has attracted a band of followers dubbed "partillectuals." The vodka is retailed throughout the state and locally through Quality Dairy, Big Ten Party Stores, On The Rocks Party Store, Tom's Food Center and Tom's Party Store. Partillectuals and other interested consumers can also enjoy cocktails made from American Fifth spirits at Midtown Brewing Company, Buddies Pub in East Lansing, Soup Spoon Cafe, Taps 25 and Red Haven. The distillery's second product, Capital Gin, was released in mid-February.
With some manufacturing and distribution already in place, Wyble is turning to the launch of the tasting room and storefront. Repurposed from a car dealership-gone-pawn-shop, the two-story facility will feature 13-foot-ceilings, pine joists and steel beams, new poured floors with radiant heat, and a painstakingly-built penny-top bar. About 700 square feet will be dedicated to the distillery, with the tasting room swallowing up about 2,000 feet. Plans are to renovate and open the second floor in about a year.
American Fifth sources as many ingredients as possible from Michigan farmers, including wheat and corn from Williamston, rye from Corunna, and micro greens and botanicals from DeWitt.
"Michigan has an astonishing agricultural industry," says Wyble. "That's been one of the most amazing things in this whole journey, and a relationship we plan to continue."
Full-tilt production is expected to be the equivalent of 4,000 cases a year of all products. American Fifth Spirits created about 10 jobs, and is currently hiring.
Source: Rick Wyble, Owner, American  Fifth Spirits
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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