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First craft distillery in Duluth since Prohibition releases its first spirits

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Vikre Distillery in Duluth is now producing its locally inspired gin.

The distillery is the first craft distillery in Duluth and one of the first in Minnesota since Prohibition, according to the Duluth News Tribune. It started selling its spirits on Feb. 19, according to the distillery's Facebook page.

Owners Emily and Joel Vikres were living in Boston and tired of working at their desk-based jobs when they decided to move to Duluth and start the Vikre Distillery, according to the Pioneer Press.

"If anyone in the world has great grain, peat and water, it is Minnesota," Emily Vikre, who is originally from Duluth, told the Pioneer Press. "It just kind of stuck."

After a year and half of planning, fundraising and developing their recipes, the Vikres are selling their boreal gins, which are inspired by the north woods, the Duluth News Tribune reports. The gins combine locally grown ingredients, and the first gins Vikre produced are all named after the tree that provided the flavoring – Boreal Spruce, Boreal Juniper and Boreal Cedar, the newspaper reports. The distillery uses water from Lake Superior and grains from Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to WDIO.

According to the distillery’s website, they will begin barreling their whiskeys this fall, but they won’t be ready for a few years. Vikre also distills Aquavit, which is the original Norwegian distilled spirit that is flavored with caraway and cardamom.

The Duluth News Tribune reports the distillery will hold its grand opening in April when it officially opens to the public. The distillery plans to offer tours, merchandise sales and tastings – it became legal for distillers to offer visitors half-ounce samples of their products in 2013, according to the Pioneer Press.

The state doesn’t allow the distillery to sell its product on-site, but that may change. The Pioneer Press reports that two other bills that would allow on-site bottle, sample and cocktail sales are in the works, but the measures may not be top priority during the 2014 state legislative session, which begins Tuesday and lasts through mid-May.

Vikre Distillery products are available at various restaurants and stores in Duluth and the North Shore and they have expanded to five liquor stores in the Twin Cities, according to the distillery’s website.

Craft distilleries have started popping up throughout the state thanks to the “Surly Bill," which became law in 2011. The bill helped pave the way for start-up distilleries to open by drastically decreasing the fee – from $30,000 to about $1,000 – for opening a distillery in Minnesota, according to the Pioneer Press. Since then, at least 10 distilleries have opened in the state, the newspaper reports.

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