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Wednesday, September 28, 2016
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The 12 Best Distilleries In and Around Chicago (The Chicagoist 1/7/15)The 12 Best Distilleries In and Around Chicago (The Chicagoist 1/7/15)

The 12 Best Distilleries In And Around Chicago

Chicago's craft beer community receives the lion's share of press coverage for its growth over the past decade, but if you've been paying attention to bars and restaurants across the city you'll find speed racks and back bars filled with a growing number of hard spirits distilled and bottled in Chicago and across the Midwest.

In fact, with the exception of tequila it's completely plausible to stock a bar with nothing but spirits made in the Midwest and for fans of the locavore movement, that would be a serious commitment to dedication. But which ones would we stock in our home bars?

Here are a dozen picks in Chicago and nearby that would make great reasons for weekend getaways or day trips. As always, debate, dissect and discuss these picks in the comments and share your favorites.

Yahara Bay Distilling
For many a lesser known name on the list, Yahara Bay flies under the radar due in part to a series of underground successes. Owner and distiller Nick Quint enlisted his stepson, Lars Forde, back in 2007 to assemble a German still in Madison, Wisconsin, where together they began a rather quiet distilling revolution. In a state dripping in beer history, Quint and Forde rolled out 20+ spirits from a Chai Vodka to a respected Kirschwasser (cherry brandy), Apple Brandy (made of course from local apples) and the required reading of gins and whiskeys. Their branding may not be the most consistent, but Yahara Bay represents more than building one brand. They have contract distilled and bottled spirits for a handful of other companies, including the reputed Death’s Door vodka and gin. (Quint took over this contract in 2008 from his cousin Jeff, owner of Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery in Iowa; Death’s Door opened a shiny new facility of their own in 2012.) One of Chicago’s favorite bitters brands also originates at Yahara Bay: Violet Hour vet Ira Koplowitz and Minneapolis cocktail pioneer Nicholas Kosevich macerate and bottle their Bittercube Bitters here too. The duo recently launched a Yahara Bay-distilled, price-friendly vodka called Modest, currently showing at a cocktail bar near you. That is to say— you might not know Yahara Bay by name, but you should. In wintertime especially, taste their apple brandy and Kirschwasser in cocktails at places like Drumbar and The Dawson. In the market for a small-batch bourbon but want something with a little oomph? Try YB’s V Bourbon: at three-and-a-half years old and under $40, in craft whiskey speak, it’s a steal. — Kristine Sherred

Yahara Bay is located at 3118 Kinglsey Way, Madison, Wisconsin.


YB to Release First Single Malt in WI
Yahara Bay to Release First Single Malt in WI

We at Yahara Bay are pleased to announce that later this year we will be launching the first single malt in WI, a spirit extremely well received at the 2014 Distill America Event. This malted barley single malt is aged for 3 years in an antique Scotch barrel from the Caol lla distillery founded in 1846 in the isle of Islay, Scotland. This 90 proof spirit opens with a floral and spicy bouquet as it hits the palate, then reveals a full-bodied oak, vanilla, and malty sweetness.  Through a proprietary process, our master distiller extracts the peat giving this single malt a finish heavy with smoke and peat with lingering undertones of toasted pralines and honey.

Because this is such a unique spirit, Yahara Bay will only be releasing a limited number of 375 ml bottles to the public.  Bottles will only be sold at the distillery on a first come first serve basis. But, not to fear, our loyal newsletter friends will be notified first of the launch date so they can reserve their bottles in advance.  In the coming years, we plan to offer different variations of this single malt and look forward to sharing that news with you later on this year.  Cheers!

~Nick Quint (President/Founder)


Wisconsin State Journal 12-6-12 Wisconsin State Journal 12-6-12


Artist and distiller find serendipity in Seraphine

Jonatas Chimen and Nick Quint are artists.

One works with his fingers and a paint brush, the other toils with a 15-foot-tall German copper still.

Their collaboration is Seraphine.

For Chimen, she is a painting of a relaxed, satisfied and beautiful woman.

Quint’s rendition of Seraphine includes vodka and chai tea.

Alone, each artist’s creation is limited. Combined, they complement and offer opportunity for both the painter and the distiller.

“The painting is the embodiment of the spirit,” said Chimen, 31, a Brazilian native who teaches art at UW-Madison. “Something that’s simple and real and beautiful in and of itself is something that attracts me as an artist and that’s the impression I got from this new chai tea vodka.”

Quint, 66, founded Yahara Bay Distillers in 2007 and has almost 20 distilled offerings that include gins, whiskies and liqueurs. His Seraphine Chai Tea Vodka is helping Quint take another step as a distiller and as an entrepreneur.

He typically spends about $3 per bottle for the bottle, labeling and graphic art work. Seraphine costs are about double. A bottle of the vodka will retail for about $35 and is designed to standout in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

“We knew the quality was there but the basic labels we came up with just weren’t going to work,” Quint said. “We didn’t really get serious about it until talking with Jonatas. We realized we could then get a label that fit the product.”

The Seraphine Chai Tea Vodka debuted last week in the Madison area and also is available in Illinois, Maryland, Texas, California, and soon in Florida. In 2013, Quint has plans to export the vodka to Brazil.

Chimen is a student of philosophy, political science and history and a graduate of the Art Institute of Weston, Fla. Quint spent several years selling soft-water products and bottled water in Madison but over the last five years has become an award-winning distiller.

The collaboration between the two artisans was serendipitous.

Quint’s wife, Catherine, is an artist. So when he came up with the idea for a distillery, she insisted it include space for a gallery to host local artists.

Chimen discovered the gallery through a friend of Catherine’s and was immediately struck by the space and the distillery, located in an industrial park on the South Side, not an arts district in the heart of the city.

“I thought this must be a place where a small crowd of very faithful people will show up, and that in of itself is something precious,” Chimen said. “It’s the same thing you would see back at the turn of the (last) century when pubs and small bars would feature artists. That made me feel really good about this because we’re going back to a model that already existed and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Chimen’s paintings were displayed for only a few weeks in the spring of this year but it led to dialogue with Quint, who in early 2011, created the chai tea vodka for a March of Dimes fundraising event. The response to the drink “was overwhelming” but it was only a drink. There was no bottle, label or marketing plan. Discussions with Chimen changed that. Among the attractions for Quint was Chimen’s intellect, versatility and willingness to make changes, something that can be difficult for some artists.

“I really liked the work he did. It had a sensuality to it and I really liked him,” Quint said. “I’m overwhelmed. I did not realize that feeling (of sensuality) could happen with a bottle of vodka and a label.”

Chimen, who has been commissioned to create a label for a red pepper-flavored vodka set to launch next year, starts all of his paintings with three colors and without a brush. Using just his fingers he mixes raw sienna, burned sienna and ivory black. Surprisingly, they combined into a color that matched the color of the vodka.

He also used his sense of smell and taste to create Seraphine, the woman on the label.

“It had to be a stunning, yet naturally looking woman. We didn’t want her to seem like she was falling asleep. We wanted her to look happy, satisfied and yet calm. Serenity is a better word,” Chimen said. “The serenity was something we wanted to capture and that took a while. It took a while to understand what is the look of serenity.”

(3) More Photos

Drink Recipe

Vanilla Chai Latte Martini

4 parts Yahara Bay Chai Tea Vodka

1 part vanilla creamer

Dash of cinnamon


Pour vodka, creamer and cinnamon into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes.

Shake vigorously for 20 seconds.

Strain into a chilled martini glass.

More information

For more information on Yahara Bay Distillers go to:

To learn more about artist Jonatas Chimen go to:



Southern Florida Opulence ArticleSouthern Florida Opulence Article

Yahara Bay Distillers Embraces the Art of its Craft: Wall Street Journal

Sept. 19, 2012, 7:49 a.m. EDT

Yahara Bay Distillers Embraces the Art of its Craft

New Chai Tea Vodka Label features work of Renowned Painter Jonatas Chimen




MADISON, Wis., Sep 19, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Yahara Bay Distillers (Yahara Bay), an award-winning Madison, Wisconsin-based artisan distillery, announced today the release of its new spirit: Seraphine Chai Tea Vodka, featuring a custom-created art label by contemporary Brazilian painter Jonatas Chimen. The product unites the two art forms: artisanal (small batch) distilling and contemporary art.

Jonatas Chimen, a Brazilian-born artist and now an art specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, incorporates a mix of contemporary and classical styles into his work, which has subtle influences of political science, philosophy, psychology and history. He is an alumnus of the Art Institute of Weston and a former student of Conchita Firgau, a graduate from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, whose fellow alumni include Salvador Dali and Picasso.

"For the chai tea vodka, I wanted to paint something that represented the luscious flavor of chai tea in abstract form, but that would also influence the mood and give the sense of interior calmness," said Chimen. "When we created this partnership, I was excited to expand the horizons of what a painting can usually achieve, and to show that fine art - even with a classic technique - can exist outside the art gallery."

Yahara Bay's partnership with renowned Brazilian artist Chimen speaks to the company's deep support of the local community and local arts. Yahara Bay's on-site gallery showcases the works of some of the Midwest's emerging artists. The distiller hosts a weekly Public House/Art Gallery event every Thursday evening for tastings and tours.

"The blending of art forms is a growing concept," said Nick Quint, owner and founder of Yahara Bay Distillers. "When we met Jonatas, and saw his artwork in our gallery, his unique style and personality was a perfect match for what our family-run distillery wanted to accomplish for this product. This union is a natural fit, as we both embrace the creativity and spirit of our craft."

Since its inception in 2007, Yahara Bay has crafted its premium spirits in small batches to ensure quality, using its 90-gallon copper still, and incorporating fresh, local ingredients, such as grains, fruits and herbs. The company often experiments with flavors and combinations, which is how it arrived at the concept for its chai tea vodka during a fundraiser at a local community event.

Yahara Bay will make the Seraphine Chai Tea Vodka available for purchase through authorized distributors in November, and will offer bottles signed by the artist at various launch parties throughout the U.S. Yahara Bay plans to commission two additional paintings from Chimen for future product releases, including red pepper flavored vodka, set to launch in early 2013.

Vanilla Chai Latte Martini

4 Parts Yahara Bay Chai Tea Vodka

1 Part Vanilla Creamer

Dash of Cinnamon


Pour Vodka and Creamer into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes.

Shake vigorously for 20 seconds.

Strain into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with a few dashes of cinnamon.

About Yahara Bay Distillers:

Founded in 2007, Yahara Bay Distillers is Madison's premier small batch distillery. Using the best local ingredients possible, the company produces 15 products, ranging from Gin and Vodka to whiskeys and liqueurs. Yahara Bay makes its products available through authorized distributors throughout the United States, with availability in select countries in 2013. Their products have received both gold and silver SIP awards and a gold MicroLiquor award in 2012, as well as two gold medals in the World Spirits competition in Switzerland in 2011. Yahara Bay hosts its weekly Public House/Art Gallery event every Thursday from 5-9 p.m. for tastings and tours. Special events and private tours are scheduled weekly by appointment. For more information about Yahara Bay, visit the company's website at: .

SOURCE: Yahara Bay Distillers

        AimFire Marketing 
        Susan Young, 317-858-7669 
        Yahara Bay Distillers 
        Jill Skowronski, 608-275-1050

Copyright Business Wire 2012


July 2012: Madison-Based Yahara Bay Distillers wins big in Spirits Competition(s)!

On July 19, 2012, the results for the 2012 SIP   (Spirits International Prestige) Awards were announced.  Leading the pack was Madison-based Yahara Bay Distillers, winning a gold medal for their Charred Oak Whiskey and silver medal for their Extra Dry Gin-a true measure of the quality that can be obtained by small batch distilling.  The SIP Awards are the only internationally recognized consumer judged spirit competition in the world, leveling the playing field for established brands and newcomers alike by enlisting consumers as judges.  The judging was conducted at the exclusive Irvine Equinox in Orange County California and medals were only awarded to the top consumer’s spirit of choice.


“It is truly humbling that our local products have been nationally recognized,” said Nick Quint, owner and founder of Yahara Bay Distillers after receiving the news.  “To know that your hard work and the integrity of your spirits have been acknowledged by the people is sincerely an honor.”


The SIP award results weren’t the only good news Yahara Bay Distillers received last week.  They were also awarded a gold medal for their V Bourbon (set to be released in a few weeks) in the 2012 MicroLiquor Spirit Awards.  The MicroLiquor Spirit Awards are the World’s First Spirits Competition for small brands. The 2012 MicroLiquor Spirit Awards attracted an astounding 263 brands from around the world and were judged blindly on taste alone. 


“I can’t even believe the week we’ve had,” said VP of Sales and Marketing Jill Skowronski.  “To be honored for a product (V Bourbon Whiskey) that hasn’t even hit the shelves yet and then to be selected twice by consumers as a top product among so many big companies, all in one week, is honestly an overwhelming and amazing experience.  It really is a testament to the diligence of our amazing team.”




Distilling It Down: In Business Magazine August 2012


Yahara Bay Distillers Wins 2 Gold Medals in International CompetitionYahara Bay Distillers Wins 2 Gold Medals in International Competition


As a first time participant at the World Spirits Competition, Madison-based Yahara Bay Distillers emerged as the gold medal winner in two of the 12 spirit categories.

Competing against spirits giants from around the world such as Dewars and Bacardi, four products were selected in each category and given medals ranging from platinum to bronze.

Gold medals were given to Yahara Bay’s Premium Rum and Extra Dry Gin, competing in the White Rum and Gin categories. They were beat only by Don Q Cristal of Puerto Rico in the Rum category and Rogue Spruce of Newport, Oregon for Gin.


Featured Spirit:  Holtz's Apple Crisp LiqueurFeatured Spirit: Holtz's Apple Crisp Liqueur

 Produced by our friends at Yahara Bay Distillery in Madison, WI, Holz’s Apple Crisp is a brilliant, spiced apple liqueur that will keep you coming back for more. The aroma is sweetly apple with spicy cinnamon. A perfect blend of apple and spices...

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9.8.2010 - Wrapped in PRIDE Vodka Hits the Shelves9.8.2010 - Wrapped in PRIDE Vodka Hits the Shelves

WIsconsin Gazette - Swathed in a label of rainbow-colored stripes, its neck gaily festooned with a rainbow ribbon, Wrapped in Pride Yahara Bay vodka practically has LGBT written all over it. The specialty liquor, made from corn and apples grown in Wisconsin – the apples come from Gays Mills – arrive on store shelves in Wisconsin this month. 

 read more ...

April 2010 - Hot Ladies and Vodka, Yes Please!April 2010 - Hot Ladies and Vodka, Yes Please!

Maxim Magazine - Congratulations to Death's Door Vodka for being recognized by Maxim Magazine as one of their top 5 micro-distilled spirits!  

 read more ...

April 2010 - Liquor Goes LocalApril 2010 - Liquor Goes Local

Madison Magazine - Why buy Stoli when you can serve a premium brand distilled in your own backyard?  That's what Jim Schiavo from The Continental Fitchburg thought when a guy named Nick Quint showed up at his bar to sell his new, small batch vodka.

 read more ...

March 2010 - Craft Distilling Update!March 2010 - Craft Distilling Update!

Suds, Wine, and Spirits Magazine - Two years ago, Madison's Nick Quint came out of retirement at age 61 to start Yahara Bay.  Yahara Bay Distilling in Madison is a substantiallyl smaller distillery, putting out 90-gallon batches, but has a most unique product line.

 read more ...

February 2010 - High-Quality Liquors From Local IngredientsFebruary 2010 - High-Quality Liquors From Local Ingredients

Sustainable Times - The Madison area has quite a few breweries and wineries. But what about the next step? The one that turns beer into whiskey and wine into brandy? Until recently, that stage was missing. Fortunately, Yahara Bay Distillers fills that gap. 

 read more ...

12.8.09 - Salud! Mad Bird Flies in the Face of Traditional Rum12.8.09 - Salud! Mad Bird Flies in the Face of Traditional Rum

Wisconsin State Journal - Rum conjures up thoughts of Caribbean pirates, Fidel Castro and sugary cocktails with paper parasols.

But until now, it has not been associated with pink plastic flamingos and Bascom Hill.

 read more ...

10.5.09 - Yahara Bay Releases Mad Bird Rum10.5.09 - Yahara Bay Releases Mad Bird Rum

(Madison, WI) Just when you thought all of the madness over naming Madison’s official bird was over; Yahara Bay Distillers has decided to pay tribute in their own,unique, way. On October 5th a limited edition run of Mad Bird Rum will be releasedfor sale at Yahara Bay Distillers in Madison, WI.

 read more ...

8.20.09 - New Legislation Allows Local Distillery To Sell Products On-Site8.20.09 - New Legislation Allows Local Distillery To Sell Products On-Site

(Madison, WI) Recently the state of Wisconsin passed legislation allowing distilleries to offer samples and sell products at their establishments.  Madison’s Yahara Bay Distillers, opened in 2007, has taken advantage of this new law and is now directly selling its small-batch, hand-crafted spirits to the public where previously they had to sell exclusively through a distributor.  A provision once only enjoyed by brewers and vintners has owner Nick Quint excited at the possibilities.

 read more ...

7.14.09 - Microdistillery Profile: Yahara Bay Distillers7.14.09 - Microdistillery Profile: Yahara Bay Distillers - Thus read the immortal words of Conan the Barbarian — altered here for the distiller — when the great warrior is asked, “What is best in life?” It’s not often that one gets to compare a local distiller to Conan the Barbarian but in speaking with Nick Quint of Yahara Bay Distillers, it’s hard not to draw some comparisons.

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6.11.09 - Matt Lange featuring Nick Quint of Yahara Bay

In part two: Nick talks about the connection between craft brewing and distilling, what distinguishes distilleries like his from the big guys, and details about the various products made at Yahara Bay.


6.9.09 - Matt Lange featuring Nick Quint of Yahara Bay

Beer Talk Today - In part one: Nick talks about how he got started distilling, the distilling process, vodka with fewer hangovers, the distribution process, and changing laws for distillers. 


3.24.09 - Yahara Bay on YouTube

Take a tour of Yahara Bay with owner Nick Quint as he explains how Yahara Bay makes Death's Door Wiskey using Washington Island Wheat.

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2.6.08 - Yahara Bay opens Madison distillery

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Distiller Nick Quint may have his hands full now, importing and bottling spirits for Vom Fass, the new franchise of a European company selling exotic vinegars and oils along with wine and spirits. But those aren't the only plans he has...

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2.1.09 - Fighting to Overcome Regulations

In Business Magazine - Paperwork covers a large table in the warehouse location of Nick Quint's craft distilling business, in addition to newspaper clippings and a large volume of the Code of Federal Regulations. These reams tell the tale of Quint's dream...

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