Well, not exactly “What” but you did notice the upside down question mark¿ Yup, that’s part of the brand for this Northern Michigan craft spirits distillery.
Naming a new distillery is no easy task. Some use geography like Michigan Peninsula Distillery or Half Way to the Equator Distilling Company. Others use a family name like Smith Family Robinson Distillery or extend the families current business like the Smith Robinson Family Farm and Distillery. You never know when inspiration may hit when trying to name your new business. It could be in the shower where you belt out some of your best tunes or it could be in your sleep that you no longer get since you decided to take the plunge and do the startup thing.
Every story is unique. This is the journey that Nick & Geri Lefebre, two entrepreneurs, dog lovers, and crazy dreamers who rolled their sleeves up & got their hands dirty took to name their startup distillery.
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Ethanolo¿y Distillation – Not a Single g in the Box
“Our name is derived from:
- Ethanol | eth·a·nol | \ˈe-thə-ˌnȯl
– noun: ethanol
– Systematic chemical name for ethyl alcohol (see alcohol).
- Any organic compound whose molecule contains one or more hydroxyl groups attached to a carbon atom.
- A colorless volatile flammable liquid C2H5OH that is the intoxicating agent in spirits, beer, & wine- also ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol.
- Ology | ol·o·gy | ˈäləjē/
– noun: ology; plural noun: ologies
– a subject of study; a branch of knowledge.
What does the ¿ have to do with distilling? Simply put, nothing. However, it has a great story behind it, and it helped mold the experimental and always evolving Ethanolo¿y® approach to distillation.
Back in 2012 when Geri (she came up with the name) and I decided to embark on this crazy journey we started first with a philosophical foundation. Paramount was creating a product we would be proud of. That consisted of sourcing all of our ingredients locally. Supporting local agriculture was important to us, as is the quality of grain & fruit. Crafting a noteworthy spirit starts with high quality fruit and grain. Luckily, Antrim county and the 45th parallel produce world renowned fruit and grain due to the micro-climate we have in Northern Michigan.
I digress. Back to the original story. One beautiful Sunday afternoon in 2014 we took the Chevelle (Geri has a 1967 Chevelle that she received as a gift the day she committed to endure me and my idiosyncrasies for a lifetime) wine tasting on Old Mission Peninsula. Although enjoyable, we had hit enough wineries and decided to venture down a dirt road following the “Antique” signs. As we arrived, the classic gray 1900s old barn was covered in vintage signs, and disseminated throughout the front yard were various agriculture and vintage pieces. This was our type of place. We love antiquing. Vintage items have soul, and character. Plus, they all have a story.
Of course, immediately I gravitate to a glass case holding the flasks. One in particular catches my eye. It is a vintage clear glass flask with unique embossing & a sterling silver cap. I respectfully bargain with the lady (because that is what you do when antiquing) for a few dollars off and we come to a mutual agreement, as Geri is off looking at various other oddities- while rolling her eyes at my negotiation tactics.
With my flask in tow, I venture downstairs of this old barn converted to an antique maze. Items stacked floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Then, a unique shelving unit catches my eye. As I approach it looks like a giant thimble rack. About 3’x3′ with various sections like a tackle box filled with giant letter press blocks. They were the biggest I had ever seen. Approximately 1.5″x 1″ and almost 1″ thick. They were so cool and full of character. Each block had this industrious and robust vibe. They immediately brought me back to a time when stuff was made by hand (books/newspaper in this case) when people truly crafted products. A time when items were built to last. The quality was evident; each block felt like it weighed a pound.
My mind started racing. First I grab the “E”,”T”, and then the “h” and “a” sorting for upper case, although there were none. As I lay out the first four letters I could see the brand forming- I immediately starting digging for the “N”, & two “Os” and then the quirky and backwards “L” which brought a smile to my face. Then… I was stuck. Not one “G” in the entire box- there had to be 200-300 print blocks in this bin and not one freaking “G.”
So I quit looking and just grabbed the “Y”- a fleeting thought ran through my head “had I had just wasted 5 minutes of my life that I will never get back.” Well, if any of you know me, I am not one to quit. So, I started digging. Thinking there has to be one “G” in this box. Somewhere. In with other letters (as they were somewhat sorted). No luck. Now, I have invested too much time trying to find a “G” that my stubborn self is determined to figure out a way to complete this. Numerous letters and symbols later I come across the ?. Not a “G” dammit, however if you turn it upside down it is!
I scurry upstairs to haggle with the lady over the cost of the blocks. She firmly states $10 each. Jesus, I proclaim. For a piece of lead? She shrugs and walks away. I almost brought them back downstairs for $10 each. Thankfully, I worked out a package deal with the lady, and Ethanolo¿y Distillation was born.
*Fun Fact: When developing our logo we actually took our print blocks to Deep Wood Press in Antrim County to use a 1900s antique press (one of only a few places on earth that still make books by hand). This organic process allowed us to actually capture the nuances in each block, giving us a truly authentic logo. Look closely at the top of the “a” and bottom of the “N” as they are most pronounced.”
Ethanolo¿y Distillation – Located directly on the 45th parallel.
Nick and Geri Lefebre, Founders of Ethanolo¿y Distillation
Have a craft spirits distillery tale you want to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.