The Truth as I Know It

Recently,  I wrote  about  Death’s Door  Gin.  I wasn’t  making it up. It’s a real thing. A large but surprisingly light (for its size) package arrived sometime yesterday afternoon/evening, while we were away. When I opened it, I found another package, surrounded by air-filled plastic bags; “bumpers,” I’d call them, to absorb the shock had the package been dropped. Inside the inner package, swaddled in more bumpers and bubble wrap and such protective gear, was the bottle of Death’s Door.  I subsequently learned the etymology of the spirit’s (and its maker’s) name: the Death’s Door passageway between Washington Island and the Door County peninsula inspired the company’s name. I should have known. Or looked it up before receiving the gin I tried so hard to obtain.

We haven’t opened it yet. And I’m relatively sure we won’t open it this morning. Probably won’t open it for a few days yet. Maybe even longer. The important thing is this: we actually have it in our possession.

After having reason to explore Death Door Spirits’ business a bit more thoroughly, I learned that it also produces vodka, white whisky, and Wondermint. Here’s what the website says about Wondermint: “Schoolcraft’s Original Wisconsin Wondermint Schnapps Liqueur is the first and only artisan craft peppermint schnapps in the world. Wondermint is a delightful blend of pure grain spirits with three times distilled peppermint extract, bitter almond, rosewater and a spike of absinthe.” I’ve never been much of a fan of schnapps, but I think I might have to engage in a little sleuthing so I can try this stuff. And I’m intrigued by the white whisky, described on the company’s website as follows: “Death’s Door White Whisky was a pioneer in the whisky category and has an 80:20 mash bill of hard red winter wheat to malted barley. The unique character of this spirit starts back in the process of fermenting the grainsutilizing a champagne yeast rather than a traditional whisky yeast.  The spirit is then double-distilled up to 160 proof (80% ABV), rested in stainless steel, proofed down to 80 (40% ABV) and finished in uncharred Minnesota oak barrels to help bring the “white whisky” together and to meld this unique spirits’ flavors.” Yep, I’ll need to get my hands on some of this stuff, too.

Both the Wondermint and the White Whisky will have to wait a while. I doubt I’ll put as much effort into getting either of them as I did the gin. Because the gin was for my wife. The other stuff would be for me. Mostly. Yet the idea of driving to Wisconsin has some appeal. And Door County has always lured me its way, though I’ve never actually been there. When we lived in Chicago, we talked about going, but never did.

But back to Death’s Door.  The distillery, formed in 2005, experienced some hard times over the years. It declared bankruptcy last November and was recently purchased by Midwest Custom Bottling. I finally, this morning, found some intriguing information about the company’s history and its financial experience. Here’ a link to an article in the Cap Times about the company’s declaration of bankruptcy; the article contains other interesting (to me) information about the company’s history.

I’m in love with the idea of struggling small businesses. There’s something romantic about entrepreneurs putting their hearts and souls into risky endeavors that could ultimately leave the risk-takers impoverished and beaten. I prefer the ones that continue to struggle, over the ones that succeed beyond their wildest imaginations. Of course I feel good for the wildly successful ones, too, but my empathy and sympathy and compassion remains fixed on the underdogs. I think that aspect of my emotional character was embedded in me during my childhood and early adulthood. One day I’ll write more about that; about my thoughts on why I am the way I am. That could take a ten-thousand-page book that, in all probability, would put the reader to sleep after page four. Maybe I should steer clear of that memoir.

My entrepreneurial bent remains with me. I’m no longer in a position to take significant risks, but then I never was. I never took the kinds of risks required of someone starting up a distillery or a brewery or any type of manufacturing operation. Manufacturers, especially small ones, impress me. Companies that actually produce products that people need or want impress me. Provided, of course, the companies don’t take advantage of their customers. I hold pharmaceutical companies in low esteem, even though they make needed products; I suppose some of them may be decent, but by and large I think they are contemptible in their greed. I do not want to start a pharmaceutical company. In fact, I can say with absolute certainty that I will never start a pharmaceutical company. Dammit.

I’ll write, one day, about the gin. I hope it meets my expectations. I hope its flavor carries me to the edge of euphoria and back. Too often, I allow my expectations to exceed the universe’s ability to meet them. And, perhaps, the universe feels the same about me.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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