Welcome spring with this Northern Michigan rum roundup and chat with distiller Geri LeFebre of Ethanology.

Iron Fish Distillery | Michigan White Rum

Molasses and Sleeping Bear Farms honey. Clean sugarcane and citrus.

Northern Latitudes Distillery | Whaleback Spiced Rum

White rum infused with fruit and spices. Warming and smooth.

Ethanology | Mel Volcatus Honey Rum

100 percent cherry blossom honey. Caramel. Toffee. Subtle citrus.

Mammoth Distilling | Wood Boat Rum

100 percent blackstrap molasses. Smoky vanilla. Dried fruit. Brown spices.

Hooch File: Geri Lefebre

Co-Founder/Distiller, Ethanology, Elk Rapids

A native of Ishpeming, Geri Lefebre met husband Nick, from Alden, when they were undergrads at Northern Michigan University. Their dream of starting a business integrating agriculture and entrepreneurial spirit in northwest Michigan crystallized amid the craft spirits zeitgeist. The couple set to work researching the business and science of distillation before Ethanology started production in February 2017 with Geri as the state’s first female head distiller. We sit down with Geri and a dram of their Mel Volcatus to talk hyper-local hooch and the science of honey rum.

Tell us about the farmers that fuel Ethanology’s spirits?
Our goal is to capture Northern Michigan terroir in every bottle, so every ingredient we use is grown within 33 miles of the distillery. Shooks Brothers Farm grows blue corn for our bourbon. Andrew Boyer in East Jordan grows our barley. And all of the honey for our rum comes from hives in the surrounding cherry orchards.

Honey rum?
We’re one of only two distilleries in the world to make an oak-aged honey distillate. It takes 1,000 pounds of honey to make each single barrel batch of Mel Volcatus. We did some calculations, and each bottle equates to approximately 5 million flower visits and 6.3 million hours of bee work.

What does all that bee work taste like when it drips from the still?
We use a sauvignon blanc yeast in the initial fermentation, which draws a lot of pineapple and citrus notes from the honey. The honey goes through the still and then ages in new Missouri oak, where it picks up its color and caramel/toffee notes. The yeast gives it a rich mouthfeel.

What’s the sipping protocol?
We like to treat it like a fine whiskey and drink it with a big ice cube or muddled in our Mel Fashioned: 1/2 teaspoon of raw cane sugar muddled with a 1/4-of-an-orange slice, bitters and a Luxardo cherry. Pour in 2 ounces of rum, add ice and a splash of soda water and stir 20–30 revolutions.

Traverse food and drinks editor Tim Tebeau writes from Petoskey. dining@traversemagazine.com // Dave Weidner is a freelance photographer based in Traverse City. dweidnerphoto@gmail.com.

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More Northern Michigan Craft Spirits

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner