A gin-vodka duo

Distilling doesn't have to be big business. Ask Derek and Sonja Kassebaum of Lake Bluff, IL.

The 30something couple are the co-founders of North Shore Distillery, the state's first bonded and licensed distillery they founded 14 months ago. Quite a leap from their homebrewing beer days. Their new enterprise produces Distiller's Gin No. 6 and North Shore Vodka.

"We looked at over 25 spices for the gin before settling on the final recipe," Derek told the St. Paul Pioneer Press's online reporter.

Both the gin and the vodka are made from the same spirit base-liquor purchased from a regional producer and business partner. The base is boiled in a German-made copper still.

In one of the most flowery descriptions of a distilled spirit I have ever read, the Pioneer Press correspondent described the Distiller's Gin No. 6 as the firm's "flagship product (that) tastes like a mini-symphony in one's mouth: The prologue is an anise smell quickly followed by a scherzo of cardamom, a rondo of lavender and then back to a coda of juniper. Sonja refers to the flavor as 'complex.' The blended botanicals are a special combination of cardamon, lavender and cinnamon. Juniper berries are required to call the product gin."

Good lord, hand me the bottle, Mathilda.

The same spirit base-liquor used for gin is purified through a charcoal filtering system to produce the vodka.

The vodka label has a martini glass with skewered olives in a see-through bottle. The gin label has a frosted cutout panel on the front with the same martini glass on the bottle back.

Bottles are priced at $30.69 for a 750 liter bottle. Availability? As Derek told me, "Our products are difficult to get outside of the Chicago area except, thanks to this wonderful Internet, our gin and vodka are available on-line."

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