Bay City’s first distillery is open, but is focusing on hand sanitizer instead of craft spirits

Third Wind Distilling Co. ­– Bay County’s first legal distillery – was making plans to release its first bottle of whiskey when COVID-19 struck. The family-owned distillery quickly switched its focus to instead produce hand sanitizer for first responders.

The move aligns perfectly with the company’s name, which pays homage to people finding the extra push, or third wind, needed to overcome life’s challenges and adversities.

“It’s a nod to perseverance,” says Company President Konnor Lange about the distillery’s name. “The drive to move forward in the face of difficulties and setbacks after the second wind has come and gone.”

In 2018, the Lange family founded Third Wind Distilling Co., Bay County’s first legal distillery at 1700B Marquette Street. Today, the company focuses on producing hand sanitizer for first responders while making plans for a summer release of its first bottle of whiskey.

The Lange family – from left, Kenneth (Ken), Kameron, Khloe, David, and Konnor Lange – opened Third Wind Distilling in Bay City. Ken, Kameron, Khloe, and Konnor are siblings. David is their father.

Eventually, the company plans to provide quality small batch craft spirits such as whiskey and gin for Michigan markets.

Bay City native Konnor Lange owns and operates the company with his siblings. Kam, Ken, Khloe, and their father, Dave.

Lange describes himself as “an avid sailor and outdoorsmen who loves enjoying everything the beautiful state of Michigan has to offer.”

The distillery also pays homage to the area’s maritime heritage. The brand focuses on capturing the adventurous spirit of Michigan and the Great Lakes. Nautical Alphabet themes are incorporated into its branding. The distillery expects to distribute its spirits to bars and stores throughout the state.

“Each product label is designed around one of the letter flags,” Lange says. “Our hand sanitizer uses the letter ‘V’ which is a bold red X with a white background and has the meaning ‘In need of assistance’.”

The idea to start a distillery in Bay City goes back to Christmas of 2017. The family had just returned from touring a distillery in southern Michigan and were chatting over some whiskey. A point was made about the lack of craft distilleries in the area.

“What started as a joke would turn into two years of extensive research and hard work, leading us to become Bay County’s first ever licensed distillery, as well as one of the only, if not the only, family owned and operated distillery in Michigan,” Lange says.

The drinks they look forward to providing are described as being for any occasion and will be crafted from locally sourced materials for connoisseurs or casual drinkers.

Originally planning their first product release this summer, a straight bourbon whiskey, Third Wind shifted gears to produce hand sanitizer to help with shortages following the COVID-19 outbreak. Lange still is confident the distillery can remain on schedule for the summer release.

“We will be producing small-batch craft spirits with a focus on whiskey and gin,” Lange adds. “You can expect many local bars and stores to carry our product. Our product will be available to bars and stores statewide through our distributor, Imperial Beverage.”

The Marquette Avenue production facility will be used to produce spirits and hand sanitizer as well as to bottle, package, and store barrels as they age. Although not open to the public, there are plans in the works for a secondary location to include a tasting room within Bay City.

For now, though, Third Wind is focused on helping the community through the COVID-19 threat. Lange recalls when he realized his family could help. Currently, Third Wind is producing hand sanitizer for essential workers, but hopes to release its first whiskey this summer.

“It became pretty apparent that there were going to be huge shortages in not just hand sanitizer, but all kinds of health care products,” Lange says. “We have the capability and capacity to produce the ethanol required in an effective hand sanitizer. This is when we shifted all production efforts from spirits to hand sanitizer.”

Lange adds Third Wind’s hand sanitizer is produced in accordance with FDA and WHO guidelines. It is a non-sterile, topical solution antiseptic with 80% alcohol.

Currently, Third Wind is prioritizing hand sanitizer for essential workers, businesses, public safety and healthcare professionals alike. They plan on making hand sanitizer available to the general public in the future and encourage anyone interested to follow them on Facebook and Instagram for updates, product launches, and events.  

With the uncertainty of the duration the pandemic, Lange and his family plan on producing hand sanitizer for as long as necessary. Essential employees and organizations can contact Third Wind about the hand sanitizer at info@thirdwinddistilling.com.

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