First distillery opens in Bloomington

Unlatching a gleaming stainless steel tank, Doug Lingo and Justin Hughey peered into a fresh batch of whiskey.

"This won't be ready for at least another year," Lingo said. "Maybe as long as three."

Lingo and Hughey are distillers for Cardinal Spirits, Bloomington’s first artisanal distillery.

Located off the B-Line Trail on the south side of Bloomington at 922 S. Morton St., the site operates as a bar and production facility, with patrons drinking out front what is made and bottled in the back.

The distillery, which opened in February, was built into an old sheet metal facility, with the back area retained for production and the front remodeled with locally sourced materials and artwork as a bar area.

The business is operated by four partners, Jeff Wuslich, Rick Dietz, Adam Quirk and Jason Katz, who originally conceived of the idea in 2009 and worked to fund and open the business during the next several years.

“We had similar visions for a craft distillery,” Wuslich said. “We wanted to make something we could hold in our hands.”

Two months after opening, the distillery offers a signature vodka that makes up the vast majority of its drinks and is working on introducing new products, ?Wuslich said.

These products include new vodka infusions, a gin and eventually whiskey, which will take time to come to market due to the length of the aging process.

All of these drinks are produced by a single computer-controlled still with three towers of bright copper which almost brush the ceiling of the distillery’s production plant.

“Penny’s her name,” Hughey said, looking at the still. “If you take care of her, she’ll take care of you.”

Cardinal Spirits operates a continuous still and is the first micro-distillery in the county to do so, Lingo said. Larger spirit producers such as Maker’s Mark and Jim Bean operate continuous stills.

Continuous stills differ from pot stills, a more traditional form of distilling.

The continuous still offers greater efficiency and produces a more consistent product, which is why the distillery chose it, Wuslich said.

“Some people are pretty fanatical about it,” Wuslich said. “We think this still is more nimble.”

Catharine Dahm, an IU senior studying journalism, works for the company as the communications director. She said she appreciates what makes the company different.

“It’s different from anything else you would get in Bloomington,” Dahm said. “It’s on the B-Line, not Kirkwood. But not everybody wants to drink at Kilroy’s.”

As the company grows, it envisions spreading across the Midwest but remaining focused on its local roots.

“We want to focus on Bloomington and Indianapolis and create a demand within our region so it sells well and sells repeatedly well,” Wuslich said.

Whatever the future brings, the company is up, running and adding another option to Bloomington’s vibrant and exciting restaurant and craft brewing scene.

“As a student, how could I walk in here and not want a drink?” Dahm said.

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