Chicago bartender Brenton Engel first began making moonshine in his basement back in 2007—before, in fact, he even began bartending. His bootlegged “Illinois Joy” began making the rounds among the city’s chefs and bartenders and soon developed a cult following. Learning to combine flavors behind the bar—particularly the herbs and spices which lend depth to gin—Brenton set up shop as an artisanal distiller, and the newly minted Letherbee label released its flagship gin in the spring of 2012, quickly growing with the addition of other herbaceous and aromatic spirits.
Letherbee’s approach to distilling is guided by a clear set of values. With passion for the therapeutic nature of herbal spirits and a commitment to rejecting any outside commercial influence in favor of creative vision, Letherbee has become recognized across the country for its integrity in both production and philosophy.
The flagship gin is now bolstered by three idiosyncratic takes on traditional herbal liqueurs: fernet, barrel-aged absinthe, and bësk (an obscure and intense Swedish bitter which enjoys shocking popularity within Chicago’s hospitality industry). Twice annually, Letherbee also creates an experimental and highly limited release of seasonal gins. The gins in these releases, dubbed ‘Vernal’ and ‘Autumnal’, feature new recipes and botanicals with each vintage, making them instant cult classics.
Letherbee is a truly distinctive creator in the sea of modern American craft distillers!