Stearns American Whiskey

by | Aug 29, 2022 | Stories | 0 comments

There are a lot of great whiskeys out there (or so we’ve been told), but there’s only one from right here in our community. Stearns American’s Avon Rye is their flagship whiskey and between the name and the reputation, we knew we needed more information. Jeremy Blankenship COO & Head Distiller filled our cup…

We are proud of our flagship whiskey. Avon Rye comes in at 95 proof and has been finished on pimento wood. Finishing this whiskey on charred pimento wood is what makes it really tasty and balanced. Pimento is the wood commonly used in Jamaican jerk barbecue and the berries from the tree are what allspice is made from. We are introducing a flavor most of us aren’t familiar with and it dials back the spice that rye whiskies usually have.”

Originally from West Virginia, Jeremy found his way to Central Minnesota by way of the metro. “I came to the Twin Cities to go to The Minneapolis College of Art and Design and decided to stick around. I think I’ve been here for about 24 years now. I was attracted to the diversity of people, culture, food options, and the beauty of Minnesota’s landscapes and that sealed the deal for me.”

His father was a chemical engineer and his mother was a nurse – but “also very creative and artsy” and his love for distilling was born from those influences. “I think that distilling embraces science and creativity all at once. It’s really just alchemy. I can thank my parents for some of that influence…”

“I started distilling around 2011 and immediately got hooked. Where I’m from, moonshining is in the blood and a thing I had always wanted to learn more about, so I started studying the craft and here we are. I co-founded my first distillery around 2013 and moved on in 2017. After that, I took a distilling break and started to learn about and work in other parts of the industry, like distribution and retail sales, etc. On the sidelines, I was drafting ideas: other recipes for building another distillery and really trying to figure out the general vibe of who we would be. When you chase dreams, you have to imagine them as if they already exist, and then the very difficult parts of making a business become less overwhelming.”

So what made him come back to distilling, and why in our community? “Stearns County has a rich moonshine history that I can personally relate to from growing up in Appalachia. Those stories are yours, and they run the risk of becoming extinct or being forgotten. What we are doing is hopefully carrying on the tradition as the first legal distillery in the county. ‘From Moonshine to Sunshine’ as we like to say.”

“I am seeing a lot of creativity and innovation working very well in central MN. I think the best kind of support we can all give each other as business owners is to keep it up. I continually ask myself what a balanced community looks like. In my opinion, a balance requires a few key components to operate: cultural diversity, public resources, economic development, affordable housing, and availability of employment. As business owners, we always have an opportunity to contribute. The business community has welcomed us with open arms. It has been really nice to get that kind of support and I am happy to be a part of a thriving community.”

Thankfully, Stearns American has built strong, local partnerships. “I see partnerships as working with anyone from banks to contractors to restaurants and bars, nonprofit organizations and the list goes on. I believe communities survive and thrive through collaboration. 95% of the skill set for the projects I need to complete already exist in this community.”

“Like most businesses, COVID really threw us some curveballs. We had a different business model back then that was event reliant and if you don’t have people to show up, then you either adapt to the situation or fold. Adapting was to find a building right away and we ended up with 112 Avon Ave. We have also had supply chain issues, a glass bottle shortage, and increased costs on construction materials. Everything has been considerably more expensive and taken longer to get. Phase II projects include a boutique distillery where the products will be exclusively available. We’re also going to build a cocktail room down the road.”

“I encourage you to taste our whiskey. Some of our retail stores will give you samples. Avon Liquor Locker is a good spot for that. If you aren’t into a straight pour of whiskey, I highly recommend folks order a well-crafted cocktail. We are on the menu at Anton’s, White Horse, Fishers Club, and Krewe. And please check out our “find us” page on the website. We’re in roughly 70 locations at the moment. Cheers!”

#StCloudShines

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