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Hi all, My name is Dave and I'm addicted to distillery operations.

I live in Michigan and am working toward opening a small distillery. We have fairly liberal state laws regarding 'small distilleries' here, but we still need to navigate the TTB stuff.

I've been developing my product by learning what I can about fermenting to create a consistently decent mash - so far sugar mash, apple wine and grain mashes have worked pretty well. Then the mash is distilled at contract distilleries to make vodka, whisky and apple brandy. My goal at the moment is consistency so I'm designing repeatable processes.

Previously I owned a contract engineering company which I grew to $3 million in 5 years. For a lot of reasons I then went to $0 in the next 5 years. Since then I've been looking for something that keeps my interest and gives me the satisfaction of business ownership. I've been interested in distillery operations for a few years and this year things started to fall into place.

My qualifications are diverse but not too deep in any one thing. I design aircraft engine parts in my current job. I'm pretty good at plant layout and automation. I'm very experienced with marketing and sales operations. And I know how to run a small business. Oh yeah, and I love liquor.

I have a route to financing and am writing a 5-page business plan now. I have a lot to learn but I'm going to register with the TTB in early 2014 and want to have my doors open by September.

I'm here for knowledge and advice and will be happy to share my experience with anyone who's interested. Any other Michiganders who want to get together and kick the ball around, let me know.


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  • 2 weeks later...


There are three core requirements for a distillery: making the product, selling the product, and regulatory compliance. It sounds like you're comfortable with the first two, so I thought I'd share a couple comments on the regulatory side.

Michigan is a control state; you probably know that already. But beyond that, every control state is different. In the case of Michigan, there are "authorized delivery agents" which are in effect distributors. However, in order to qualify as an ADA, the company has to cover the entire state. As far as I know, this requirement has resulted in there being only three ADAs for the entire state. Which means you will have to do business with one of these companies for your in-state distribution. I suggest you start your conversations with these companies now, as their approval process is very slow.

Michigan also has a very healthy state markup - if I'm recalling correctly, it's 60%. This can impact your retail price in a big way, so it's another area you may want to dig into. I don't recall off-hand what the state excise taxes are, but that's another area to look into sooner rather than later.

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