Dexter's Highline Spirits aims to make whiskey appreciation accessible for everyone

A revelatory experience with whiskey 10 years ago led Dexter resident Christi Lower to make an unusual career pivot and make her passion for the spirit more accessible to all.
A revelatory experience with whiskey 10 years ago led Dexter resident Christi Lower to make an unusual career pivot and make her passion for the spirit more accessible to all.

Lower's business, Highline Spirits, currently offers four blended whiskeys bottled in a warehouse, lab, and office space just outside of downtown Dexter. The associated Highline Room at 3126 Broad St. in downtown Dexter offers whiskey tastings and diverse cocktail offerings featuring other spirits. The tasting room offers a cozy indoor space, designed by Lower herself, and a large outdoor patio. 

Lower's interest in whiskey started while attending a wedding in Kentucky around 10 years ago.

"They had hired a bourbon steward who did a really wonderful job explaining all of the different types of whiskey, how bourbon fit into the whiskey category, and how wide the whiskey category actually is," she says. "And they let us try whatever we wanted." 

Before that, she jokes, "I didn't know a whole lot about whiskey beyond a Jack and Coke."
Highline Spirits founder Christi Lower at the Highline Room in Dexter.
But her experience at the wedding lit a fire of curiosity to learn more. Lower took time off from her job as a pediatric surgery physician's assistant at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital just before the COVID-19 pandemic. Then she decided to turn her passion into a business. 

"I was educating my four kids at home, doing virtual school, and wanting to fill up the academic side of my brain," she says. "So I started reading about the distillation, finishing, and blending of whiskey along with the use of different types of barrels. And then I decided to jump into it."

Lower co-founded Highline in December 2021 along with her husband Jeff, who is a lawyer by day. The name came from a bucket-list hike they took on the Highline Trail in Montana's Glacier National Park. 

"The hike represents all of the different moments and difficulties that you'll experience during a hike," Lower says. "It's a technical hike. It's very long and very hard. And it's really worth it."

Highline began distributing spirits in August 2023. The Lowers' products are self-distributed and available in 47 states. Their Triple Rye has already landed on Fred Minnick's Top 100 American Whiskeys of 2023 List.
Highline Spirits' whiskeys.
One of the unique aspects of the Lowers' brand is that they blend whiskey sourced from all over the U.S. instead of distilling their own. "Blended" is certainly a misunderstood, sometimes dirty, word in the whiskey industry given the marketing frenzy over single-barrel Kentucky bourbons.

But Lower will remind you that blending is a crucial part of the whiskey-making process at any distillery. 

"Blending is historically the way that whiskey is produced," she says. "Every single barrel is a living, breathing thing and tastes differently. Every major distillery has a blender who’s blending for consistency."

Blending allows Highline to highlight great newer whiskeys from all over the U.S. 

"We want to find excellent whiskey from all over the country, finish it in different ways, experiment with it, and play with the scientific properties of the whiskey," Lower says. "I think blending from different terroirs and proofing [to alter a whiskey's flavor profile] is going to be the next thing."
The Highline Room in Dexter.
Being a female business owner in the spirits industry is unique and challenging, but Lower hopes to change that. She has experienced unreturned emails or phone calls from some distilleries, a problem that usually went away when her husband emailed or called the same distilleries.

"There are a significant amount of women in the space doing a lot of really great things, and it's starting to become more prevalent," Lower says. "They just aren't necessarily in a position of authority."
"I think the women that are here need to continue talking about the fact that it's not necessarily you when you don’t get a call back. It's a reflection on the industry that is changing but needs to change a lot quicker."

Lower notes that another reason to bring more women into the industry is that "it’s widely discussed that women have better palates than men."

At the Highline Room, which opened in October 2023, Lower emphasizes education and accessibility, in keeping with Highline's brand ethos that "we're better together." The space offers twice-monthly cocktail classes. Future events in the works include chocolate pairings, single-barrel tastings, and a ladies' night.
Highline Spirits founder Christi Lower at the Highline Room in Dexter.
"Bringing really great whiskeys, really great minds, and really great experiences from all over the country together creates a more exceptional product and experience," Lower says.

Dexter, where Lower grew up and currently lives, was the perfect town for Lower to build her tasting room. 

"Everybody in Dexter is very welcoming, always looking for something new and interesting to do, and there’s a community push to continue to grow and learn new things," she says. 

A new Highline tasting room in the former Wiltse’s Community Pharmacy space in downtown Plymouth is also nearing completion, with a tentative opening date set for this spring.

Much like the bourbon steward at the wedding she attended in Kentucky, Lower hopes to open up the whiskey space to many more women. 

"What I hope for Highline is that a decade from now we've made enough of a mark in the space that, when a woman goes to any bar in the United States and orders a whiskey neat, nobody puts it down in front of their male partner," she says.

Doug Coombe is Concentrate's managing photographer.

All photos by Doug Coombe.
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