Far North Spirits was founded just about as far north as you can get in the state of Minnesota, in tiny Skane Township near the city of Hallock, just 25 minutes from Canada. (It’s actually the northernmost distillery in the contiguous US!)
Gustaf Swanson had immigrated there in 1917, farming rich soil on a large swath of land. Gustaf’s great-grandson Michael Swanson and his wife, Cheri Reese, built the Far North distillery on that family farm almost 100 years later, making what they call “field-to-glass” spirits. They plant their own hand-selected, non-GMO seed varieties, harvest all the grains themselves and carefully source additional botanicals and spices.
Head distiller Michael grew up on the farm, and moved on to manage marketing, develop sustainable practices for a Fortune 500 company, get a degree in biochemistry and an MBA, write a food and wine column, try his hand at medical research and as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company. We think the distilling suits him best.
And Cheri actually grew up in nearby Hallock, working at her parents’ flower shops (one of which was based in Hawaii!). She got an English degree, directed communications for Minnesota’s school systems, started a PR firm and was a communications consultant in public education and healthcare, all before “making peace with winter” and setting at the Swanson Family Farm to crank out some seriously good spirits.
In February 2015, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture awarded Far North Spirits with a three-year crop research grant for a first-of-its-kind study. Michael and Cheri evaluate the growth and taste of different varieties of winter rye grown in Minnesota, hoping to further the state’s rye distilling industry and make it a leader in rye spirits production.