Malort, 'Besk', Letherbee Distillers
Chicago bartender Brenton Engel first began making moonshine in his basement back in 2007—before, in fact, he even began bartending. His “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 their integrity in both production and philosophy.
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Swedish for “bitter,” Bësk is an intensely potent wormwood spirit which enjoys shocking popularity among Chicago’s hospitality industry. As good citizens of their city, Letherbee pulls no punches in their Bësk, bolstering the wormwood’s bite with the similarly caustic addition of gentian root. Despite a bitterness which seems to linger for days, Letherbee miraculously manages to slip subtle but distinct notes of elderflower, juniper, and star anise into the palate. The spirit is at once challenging and delicate—a real achievement in the world of bitters—and all the more impressive at a whopping 50% ABV