Vikre Distillery captures the spirit of Duluth
Emily and Joel Vikre are the seemingly unlikely owners of Duluth’s newest alcohol related endeavor, craft spirits. While their business may have started off as an improbable idea, Vikre Distillery has quickly become a staple of the Duluth landscape, incorporating the unique culture and resources of Northern Minnesota into new and innovative lines of spirits.
“We’re not people who ever had any intention of owning a distillery,” said Emily Vikre, the co-founder and president of the Northland’s only operating distillery, Vikre.
The idea was first born roughly five years ago when Emily and Joel were home visiting Emily’s parents in Duluth. During the trip, they heard an old story about a group of Scottish men who claimed to make the best whisky in the world simply because they had the world’s best water and barley.
“We were like, actually, Duluth has the best water in the world, and we grow grain here,” Emily said. “We started thinking that someone should make a Minnesota whisky, and there weren’t even any distilleries in Minnesota at the time.”
It was only about four months later when Emily and Joel decided to leave the East Coast and move back to Duluth to pursue their newfound dream of opening the city’s first distillery. As luck would have it, the couples move home happened just as Minnesota passed the “Surly Bill.”
Although the Surly Bill is known for being the bill that allowed breweries to serve their own brew on site, Emily says it’s also the bill that gave them a shot at opening their own distillery.
“There were no distilleries in Minnesota before that because the licensing fee for distilleries wasn’t based on size. So, no matter what size distillery you owned, you had to pay the same licensing fee that the huge ethanol plants do, which made it impossible to be a small distillery,” Emily said.
However, part of the new Surly Bill said that the state would set a new licensing fee for distilleries under a certain size. Then, only a few years later, another bill followed that allowed craft distilleries to serve their own products on-site as well.
Today, roughly four years after first opening, Vikre Distillery has grown substantially. The company that started off selling only three types of their Boreal Gin has since expanded to include aquavit, vodka and whisky, with a total of ten spirit varieties. They’ve also expanded into nine other states, including as far away states as Maryland and North Carolina.
Although Emily and Joel are thrilled with their success thus far, being profitable is far from the only thing they care about. They also want to do their part to help the Duluth community and its surrounding landscape.
“We just really try and commit to doing things in the most environmentally and community focused way that we can,” Emily said.
On top of being a zero-waste business, the distillery also works to play and active role in the community that it cherishes.
“We try and be involved in a lot of nonprofit missions and say yes to helping out at as many fundraisers as we can,” Emily said. “We also allow people to bring their work here and do fundraisers here.”
Whether you’re a Minnesota native who enjoys supporting small family owned businesses or simply a fan of quality craft-spirits, Vikre Distillery is sure to have something for you. While their products seem to have exploded into Minnesota liquor stores across the state, the cocktail room at the distillery also offers seasonal craft cocktails, made with 100 percent homemade ingredients.
Take a peek at their “It’s Almost Winter” cocktail menu, or stop by their location in Canal Park to taste for yourself.