Yes, We Do Make Spirits! The Distillery at Black Star Farms

What comes to mind when you hear the words, “Eau de Vie”?  Maybe you think of a high-alcohol spirit with unique fruit flavors.  However, many of you might not be familiar with this French term.  It translates to “Water of Life”, and it is used as a designation for fruit brandy. Averaging about 40% alcohol, brandy is typically consumed after dinner as a digestif or digestivo, but it can also be used in a variety of cocktails and recipes. Most clear eaux de vie taste similar to vodka and some, if they have been aged in oak, can resemble whiskey.

The Distillation program at Black Star Farms focuses on brandies made entirely from local fruit and no grain. For example, our Pear Eau de Vie is distilled entirely from Bartlett pears. We ferment the pears first into wine, which is then transferred to our copper pot still where the liquid is distilled into a high-proof spirit. We won’t dive into the scientific details of this process, but we will tell you a little bit more about these unique elixirs and the many ways to enjoy them.

This summer at our Suttons Bay Tasting Room enjoy our new signature cocktails offered on Fridays or Saturdays from 6-8.  We replace the base spirits, either whisky or vodka, with brandy for a new take on classic cocktails like the Manhattan.

In the kitchen, our brandies can be incorporated into savory sauces or used as a garnish to finish deserts.  One of the most popular ways of using cherry brandy (kirsch) is in fondue.  Check out the recipe below.  We recommend using a dry Black Star Farms white wine like Pinot Gris, Black Star Farms Cherry Eau De Vie, Leelanau Cheese Raclette and bread from 9 Bean Rows for a Northern Michigan take on this nostalgic appetizer.

Current Offerings

Spirit of Pear Eau de Vie

Spirit of Cherry Eau de Vie

Spirit of Plum Eau de Vie

Spirit of Honey Brandy (Seasonal)

Spirit of the Vineyard Red Grappa

Spirit of Raspberry Brandy (Seasonal)

Apple Brandy Blanco

Spirit of Apple Brandy (Oak-Aged)

Pear and its Spirit (Pear in the Bottle)

To purchase our spirits please visit one of our 2 Traverse City area tasting rooms.  Illinois residents can purchase our cherry, pear and apple brandies online through Big Fish.

A staff favorite is the Spirit of Apple Brandy, which is aged up to five years in oak barrels. It has distinct bourbon-like qualities, but instead of the sweetness from corn, you get the sweetness from apples. The oak influence gives this brandy a warmth and spice that compliment subtle apple flavors. We recommend mixing it with the Black Star Farms Sirius Maple Desert Wine to add a little sweetness and sip it alongside of spiced deserts.

All of the fruit used in our Brandies is sourced locally and distilled at our Old Mission Peninsula processing facility under the careful and knowledgeable supervision of Vladimir Banov. Vladimir has been with Black Star Farms since 2007 and leads our winemaking team in the production of various award-winning white wines and distilled products.

Next time you visit Black Star Farms be sure to ask about the “Pear and its Spirit.” This is a great conversation piece and delicious spirit with a whole Bartlett pear inside the bottle. Yes, you read that correctly! The “Pear and its Spirit” is a mystery that baffles our guests. Can you guess how we get the pear in the bottle?  We only make about 500 bottles of this 90-proof spirit per year, therefore it is not available for tasting. Our spirits are also a great choice for those who are gluten free or celiac. Pay a visit to one of our tasting rooms soon to try these limited production spirits that showcase our agricultural bounty. Cheers!

About the Writer, Olivia Kiel

As a Tasting Room Representative and the new blogger for Black Star Farms, I get the opportunity to write and learn about wine (two of my favorite things!) every day. I’ve worked at both Traverse City area tasting rooms and developed a passion for everything Black Star Farms by working alongside the company’s best and pouring its finest wines. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Ferris State University where I studied Writing and Business and have been a Northern Michigan resident for about three years. When I’m not at work, you’ll likely find me with a good book, enjoying the outdoors, or at a local winery tasting something new and exciting.