Hidden in the back of a one-story office complex beneath a mammoth concrete bridge that will one day carry the Southwest Light Rail Green Line Extension, and complete with a sidewalk patio, Flying Dutchman Spirits has something of an urban feel tucked into a suburban landscape.
Founded in 2017 by two hobby pilots and joined by a third friend, Flying Dutchman Spirits — known as a small batch craft distillery — offers a menu of 45 cocktails featuring the gin, vodka, rum, and blue agave produced on-site in its Hungarian-made Hagyo still.
Co-owners include Brandon Thornton, originally from Eden Prairie and now living in Washington State, Jim Kaldenberg, who lives in Iowa (the pilots), and Marc Tullemans, originally from the Netherlands (the Dutchman), recently moved from Eden Prairie to Tonka Bay.
Thornton, a chemical engineer, spent years experimenting with whiskey and gin making before his Flying Dutchman brainchild became a reality, according to Mackenzie Lavigne, general manager and head distiller.
Lavigne, who lives in Eden Prairie with her husband Joe, a financial analyst who also doubles as a photographer for the business, started as a bartender at Flying Dutchman while attending school. After graduating with a degree in neuroscience from the University of St. Thomas, she moved from server to general manager and head distiller. Lavigne has been with Flying Dutchman for four years.
The distillery room, visible from the cocktail lounge through a glass wall, is adorned with flags from the U.S., Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, Poland, Barbados, and Colombia – each representing one of Flying Dutchman’s spirits.
“Our whole brand has an international inspiration and we’re bringing that to Minnesota,” Lavigne said.
‘Heads, hearts and tails’
Distilling at its base is a chemical process. But it’s also an art. Lavigne, assistant distiller Nick Gaffney, and Thornton taste and smell test every batch, searching for the smooth mouth-feel and aroma that Flying Dutchman spirits are known for.
Depending on the end product, the mash is made with Minnesota corn, russet potatoes, yeast, cane sugar, and 100% agave nectar from Mexico.
After fermenting for four days to two weeks, depending on the product, the mash mixture is added to the Hagyo, where the distilling process begins.
The still heats the mash, vaporizing the alcohol, capturing and moving it through the still to create a higher ABV (alcohol by volume), which is then collected in a tank. Signature products vary between 40 and 44 AVB and 80 and 88 proof.
“Heads, hearts, and tails,” are what separate Flying Dutchman products from other distilleries, Lavigne said.
The first liquid to come out of the still is called heads, followed by hearts and finally, tails.
Lavigne produced two jars, one heads, one tails. Placing one’s nose in the opening of the heads jar produces a neck-snap. “This contains acetone,” Lavigne said. That’s the stuff used to remove nail polish.
Tails comes out last. “Some people compare the smell of tails to a dirty gym bag,” she said.
All three components are collected in separate containers. Only about 40% of the distilled alcohol is used in the final products. The heads and tails are never used. “They are poured down the drain,” Lavigne said. “What you are drinking are the hearts – the good stuff.”
It’s the attention to detail that makes the difference, she said. “What makes us craft is that we are smelling and tasting each distillation that we do to make the essential cuts between the heads and hearts and hearts and tails.”
Food and events
Flying Dutchman has a limited food menu, including Heggie’s pizzas, Three Mad Poppers popcorn, and Sgt. Shortbread cookies.
Food trucks take up the slack. Feed Me Farms pizza, Bravis tacos, June Bug Carolina barbecue, and Philly Station cheesesteaks are among several on-site Friday and Saturday nights and on special occasions.
“(The drink menu) is ever changing,” Lavigne said.
Summer flavor infusions include rhubarb and lavender flavors. “We make simple syrups in house,” she said. “Those change with the season depending on what’s fresh and available.” They are not sold separately.
What if you’re typically a beer drinker? “We can only sell spirits that we make here and we cannot sell beer or wine,” Lavigne said. “But we have converted people. We tell them, ‘Just try something. If you don’t like it, we’ll make something different.’ With our large menu, there’s usually something for everybody.”
Cocktail kits are available for sale at the distillery and on its website.
The cocktail lounge is available for corporate events and meetings.
Customers can bring in their own food. Leashed dogs are welcome on the outdoor patio.
Tastings and tours
Flying Dutchman offers tours and tastings on the first Wednesday of every month. A cocktail class also is offered on a Saturday morning once a month. One-hour tours are $30, and two-hour classes are $85. Check the website for time and dates.
Taco Tuesdays feature a free taco bar from 4 p.m. until the food is gone.
Taylor Swift Flight Night
A special Taylor Swift event is Thursday, June 22, from 4 to 9 p.m. Two different flights of Swift-themed beverages are featured, as well as a food truck and Swift music.
Flying Dutchman spirits are sold in Eden Prairie Liquor stores, Total Wine, MGM, and expanded in Minnesota.
Flying Dutchman is located at 6801 Flying Cloud Drive on the east side of the Whiteboard building on the southeast corner of Highway 212 and Shady Oak Road.
It is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. and from 3 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Live music is featured Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m.
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