Making liquor is a lot of work. If you don't believe it, just ask one of the owners of Arizona Distilling Co. From a distillery in Tempe, the company pumps out bottle after bottle of Commerce Gin, Park Rye Whiskey, and Mission Vodka, among other spirits. Hardest of all is the Copper City Bourbon, the first legally produced bourbon in Arizona, which has to be aged in virgin oak barrels.
“Everybody thinks it’s all fun and games,” says co-owner Jason Grossmiller. “Who wouldn’t want to own a distillery? But it’s only fun and games until you have to work.”
Until last year, the company was shockingly small, with four original owners and five employees. Still, they craft and ship 35,000 cases of liquor each year. Then last year, they hit a snag: The company's building in central Tempe was sold by its owners, and the entire distilling operation had to move somewhere else.
After nine months of arduous transition, the owners of the Arizona Distilling Co. are turning a bad situation into a good one: They plan to open a small bar by the end of the year, which will eventually expand into a restaurant.
“We loved the old location,” Grossmiller says. “We used to do tours and tastings. But that space was more of an industrial building. It wasn’t air-conditioned. We got some bad Yelp reviews, people complaining that it was too hot.”
When they left their defunct headquarters last January, the owners scrambled to track down a new building suitable for both the production and sale of spirits. What they found was a sizable storefront at 601 West University Drive – about 400 yards from the old building.