WHITEHALL – The White Lake Area, in recent years, has become a hot bed for craft alcohol, and will soon be adding a distillery to its growing number of establishments.
It first started in 2007 with the Bardic Wells Meadery opening up in Montague, and then in 2014 Fetch Brewing Co. opened its doors in downtown Whitehall. With no set date to open Artesian Distillers will be coming to the area.
Owner Amir Haririan is moving his operations from Grand Rapids to Whitehall after his business the Hemingway Lounge was forced to close.
“Our initial building [it] was sold, so we were forced to move to a new location. So it kind of opened up some doors to seek another place where we could just buy the building instead of just leasing all the time,” said Haririan.
“So we purchased this one. For me it has been a really good neighborhood, to come here and see the community of Whitehall, the lake, the tourism, and Grand Rapids is really just too big for me.”
Haririan said that he purchased the property behind Chen’s Chinese Restaurant, 212 E. Colby St., in March. The building had been abandoned for a number of years, but previously housed Studio France and Cole’s Dry Cleaners.
Keeping his lips tight on an opening date, Haririan said he is waiting for his licenses to transfer from Grand Rapids to Whitehall.
Prior to getting into the alcohol business Haririan said that he was an engineer that worked in both the automotive and aerospace fields. He began experimenting with distillation in 1995, first making vodka, but wouldn’t start his business until 2009.
“For me it was really just independence from the corporate world, and I’ve always had the interest in alcohol production for many years. Basically in 1995 I started playing around with distilling,” said Haririan.
He has used that technical knowledge to his advantage. When operating in Grand Rapids, Haririan said he could produce about 30,000 bottles a day.
“I’ve literally set up my operation the way you would set up an automotive line. You have to have quality control in place, everything is measured, you check your bottleneck process. You figure product to the penny. You run things like you run a huge operation, and that is how you survive,” said Haririan.
Beer is a popular drink in West Michigan, which is known for its micro breweries and beer tourism. Haririan said that making distilled spirits has some similarities to making beer.
“Fermentation, the processing of the grains, is actually exactly the same method. You are actually making beer. Your first batch is literally beer. You have your grain, it’s seeping, you put your turbo yeast in it, you allow it to grow, said Haririan
“Then the secondary process is to distill it to get it to the next higher level.”
Even if you’ve never tried spirits like gin, vodka and whiskey, Haririan said he can probably find a drink for you. Artesian Distillers makes over 80 products.
“We can go from fruity drinks, light and easy, to some very connoisseur type things. [...] So it is very easy to get the full range,” said Haririan.
The goal for the new Whitehall location is to have the manufacturing, retail, bar and restaurant in the same place. The food menu hasn’t been decided yet, but Haririan said that he has been talking to a chef about ideas.
For more information visit: www.artesiandistillers.com