Bill Welter: Journeyman Distillery

By+Kathy Jonas

There isn’t much Bill Welter would change about Journeyman Distillery’s space in Three Oaks, Michigan. But then again, who would? The 2010 distillery is located in a turn-of-the-century brick factory building that perfectly combines rustic and contemporary in a way that has translated to success for the 41-year-old distiller. 

“We have nearly 40,000 square feet on site here, with additional storage of over 10,000 square feet off site, but we wish we had more space!,” says Welter. “Believe it or not we are in a constant crunch for space. We have no proper office space, which is much needed.”

While office space might be lacking, the charming old Featherbone Factory (they used to take whale bones and make corsets and buggy whips) now is the home to the distillery’s still space with gleaming copper equipment, a retail store, a bar, a restaurant and facilities for weddings and private events. 

In May of this year, they opened their third wedding space–The Grainery–which includes an in-house catering facility accommodating 175 guests and a catering kitchen. 

Other exciting upcoming developments: beer production and wine service beginning in 2018 and construction of a 23,000-square-foot putting green inspired by the Himalayan putting green in St. Andrews, Scotland, scheduled to open in August, 2017. 

“We were inspired to find an old factory building that had a story to tell,” says Welter. “Having spent a couple of years living in Scotland, I pulled a lot of inspiration from their distilleries but also the distilleries in Kentucky. While we couldn’t create a 100-year-old whiskey brand, I wanted a building that looked like it was one.” The wood floor in Warren Hall (an event space) is made up of 8,000 square-feet of reclaimed Wisconsin barn wood. 

“We wanted a marriage of rustic and contemporary so when you come into the distillery you see that juxtaposition of the old 1800’s brick and walls and the new copper distillery equipment and contemporary furniture and finishes.”

His favorite thing about the space is the fact that it represents many generations working there. They have blown up an old photograph of employees of the Warren Featherbone Factory from 1923 and they actually found a Baby Ruth candy bar wrapper in one of the floor’s joists and believe it came from the 1930s when candy bars were sold for five cents.

 

What three things does Bill have to have in any space he occupies? 

A bottle of Journeyman Last Feather Rye, his iPhone and a hat on his head!

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