Review: Grand Traverse Distillery 100% Straight Bourbon Whiskey


This review has been conducted as part of a blind taste test to determine the best Traverse City Bourbon.

Product Details

  • Producer: Grand Traverse Distillery
  • Location: Traverse City, Michigan
  • Name: 100% Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Classification: Hand Crafted Small Batch
  • Specific Characteristics: N/A
  • Age: No Age Statement (We were told 5 to 5.5 years at the tasting room)
  • Proof: 92
  • Michigan Minimum Shelf Price: Not distributed – $54.00 at the tasting room

Tasting Notes

Smell: The first scent we notice is a quick almost lavender-like floral aroma.  The spiciness that we smell next hints at it being a high-rye content Bourbon with scents of pepper and cinnamon showing through.  Vanilla is also present, as are lesser scents of chocolate and caramel.  It finishes with a sweet corn alcohol scent that indicates it is somewhere in the 90-100 proof range, however, is well blended and does not overpower the other scents.  We can tell this is a well-aged Bourbon somewhere in the 4 to 7 year range.

Taste: There is an immediate corn sweetness present on the tip of the tongue, but only momentarily as the flavors begin to move towards the back of the mouth.  There are quick tastes of salt and rose petals that we pick up midway back on the tongue, before the peppery spiciness is felt at the back of the tongue.  From there, there is a very dense mouth feel that makes it difficult to discern individual flavors as it begins to move back toward the front of the palate.  Subtle tastes of chocolate and orange are present.  It finishes with a long lingering smoky flavor of charred oak.


This Bourbon is very smooth and fairly complex with a bold, dense mouth feel.  It checks all of our boxes as it moves around the tongue from sweet to spicy and back again, before finishing with a signature oak flavor.  None of this comes as a surprise given that it is a 63% corn, 29% rye, 8% malted barley mash that is distilled and aged for 5 years or more.

Recommendation and Score

Recommendation: We wholeheartedly recommend this as a good sipping Bourbon, especially given that it is distilled, aged, and bottled in our own home state (something very few brands can say).  To us, it would be a shame to dilute this one in a cocktail.  If we had any criticism, it would be the price as a similar-level Bourbon from larger, more established distilleries can be found at a lower price point.  If it were available at a lower price point, we would easily give it an extra two to three points on the overall score.  However, we have little reservation recommending this product at its current price, given that it is hand crafted and distilled four times at an up-and-coming microdistillery.

Score: 88 out of 100 overall.


Traverse City Distillery Visits

Over this past holiday weekend, we took a mini vacation to see what was new with the distilleries in Traverse City.  We visited the Grand Traverse Distillery tasting room, the Mission Micro Distillery Tasting Room, Northern Latitudes distillery, and the not-quite-open Traverse City Whiskey Co. distillery. Below is a quick summary of each, and in the coming days we will be featuring full reviews of the Bourbon each distillery produces.

Grand Traverse Distillery


Location: 781 Industrial Circle, Suite 5, Traverse City, MI 49686 (distillery); 215 E. Front St., Traverse City, MI 49684 (tasting room / shop)

Our visit was to the tasting room on Front St. in downtown Traverse City, as it is new since the last time we visited.  Opened in September, 2014, it is a large welcoming tasting room.  From the street there is large vertical “Distillery” sign and a miniature still in the front window.  It is certainly enough to grab the attention of any passersby.


Once entering you are greeted by a large open space which serves as a gift shop.  Items include tasting and nosing glasses, various types of shirts, wooden crates with the distillery logo, seasonings, and more.


In the far back of the storefront is the tasting room area.  There is a lounge-type area with a couple chairs, then a large bar with full-wall bottle display behind it.  Though they distill a couple of award-winning Vodkas, they also produce both Bourbon and Rye Whiskey that are distilled and aged in-house at their distillery across town.  This is fairly unique, as most of the micro distilleries in the state are still too young to have aged their own distilled whiskeys.  Major props to Grand Traverse Distillery for getting an early start in 2007.

Mission Micro Distillery / Mission Table Tasting Room


Location: 13512 Peninsula Drive, Traverse City, MI 49684 (Tasting room, distillery located behind in separate building)

The Mission Micro Distillery / Mission Table Tasting Room was our second stop.  It is another established and welcoming tasting room, though more intimate than the Grand Traverse Distillery locations.  Located in a former Inn, it is an off-shoot of the current restaurant.


You enter through a large wooden door in front, appropriately labeled with a “Tasting Room” sign.  Upon entering, you are immediately greeted by a small stand-up tasting bar. As you round the corner you find a very cozy area complete with a fireplace with a large fire stoking bellows for decoration.  The space is surrounded by additional seating, as well as bottled spirits, beer, shirts, and more available for sale.  The distillery is located in a separate, newer building behind the old Inn and tasting room.  Like Grand Traverse Distillery, they distill and age their own Bourbon.  Additional whiskies they produce include Rye Whiskey and Sour Mash Whiskey, along side a full complement of other distilled spirits.

Northern Latitudes Distillery


Location: 112 E. Phillip St. Ste B, Lake Leelanau, MI 49653

Northern Latitudes Distillery is located a short drive from Traverse City, and is another seasoned distillery well-known for their flavored Vodkas and other spirits.  Although they do not yet distill their own Bourbon, they have one that is sourced from Indiana according to their mash bill profile.  They have recently ordered barrels to begin aging their own Bourbon, but it is 3.5+ years from market.  Nonetheless, it is worth a visit if you are in the area.


They have their still on site in full view of the tasting bar, a large four-sided tasting bar in the center of the space, and a separate bar in back where drinks are available for purchase.  Spirits, shirts, glasses, and various other assorted drinking memorabilia are available for purchase on site.

Traverse City Whiskey Co.

Location: 201 E Fourteenth Street, Traverse City, MI (not yet open)

We stopped by the not-yet-open Traverse City Whiskey Co. distillery and tasting room to check on the progress.  Although the space was originally slated to open in Spring, 2014, it looks like there is more work to do yet.  We don’t have any pictures to share, but peeking through the windows gave us a good indication of where they stand.  The main entrance has a small still visible from the window and opens into a hallway and bathroom area, with a tasting room and bar to your left.  The bar area looks to feature a large tasting bar with central bottle display area behind it, along with a number of tables for seating. Decor seems to be mostly complete, as even the chalk boards above the bar have writing on them.  To the other end of the building there is a back-room production area that currently has roughly a dozen barrels of whiskey aging as well as a small bottling area.  We believe the aging barrels may contain the first of their own distilled whiskey, as earlier bottles were sourced from a distillery in Indiana.  Judging by the small 3-bottle station for bottling and the number of boxes in the work area, it appears they are currently doing their own bottling and no longer relying on Ugly Dog Distillery in Chelsea, MI to do so.  Based on everything we saw, we expect the tasting bar may finally open in the coming Spring.