NORTH POLE — Arctic Harvest is the only farm distillery in Alaska. The family-owned business offers a trio of whiskeys in its tasting room next to the field in which the grains for the spirits are grown.
“We’re vertically integrated,” said Stu Davies, who co-owns the distillery and farms the grains.
Growing the grain, malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation, barrel aging and bottling the spirits all happens on-site at Arctic Harvest in North Pole. Davies has operated a farm business called Davies Farm since 2000, but the business model has changed this year with a fully operational distillery.
“I had no plans of farming after retirement,” said Davies who farmed in Idaho much earlier in his life. “I planned on opening a shooting range after retiring. But residents in the (Chena Hot Springs Road) neighborhood shot the idea down. There was all this clear ground here and clearing ground, it’s unreal in Alaska. It’s a sin to let it grow back. So I started to buy farm equipment, and one thing led to another.”
Davies said farming in Alaska is intensive work, but selling the grain to farmers for feed wasn’t paying the bills.
“I couldn’t make money growing grain. This is a value added to the grain,” Davies said of the distillery.
One of the most difficult steps in getting the distillery started was federal permit processing, Davies said. It took a call to U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan’s office to get the distillery permit application pushed through.
Davies’ daughter, Kelly Eggleston, said this was the ultimate do-it-yourself project. Family members built everything. Her husband, Travis Eggleston, is a civil engineer and he designed the distillery. The family constructed it.
“Another big hurdle was building this place. For a whole year, this was a fabrication shop. We were building everything in here,” Travis said.
Not only did they build the distillery, but also they designed and constructed their equipment. Everything down to polishing the stainless steel distilling equipment was done by the family.
“We did this in true pioneer spirit,” Kelly added.
Arctic Harvest offered its first batch of whiskey — Solstice Shine Moonshine Whiskey — this spring and added a tasting room in July. As a moonshine whiskey, it isn’t aged so it’s clear. It packs some heat but goes down smooth.
In September, the distillery’s Moonlit Winter Malt Whiskey was bottled. It’s made using malted barley and aged new charred-oak barrels.
The Alaskan Northern Light Whiskey is not a diet whiskey nor does it have a lesser alcohol content. It gets its name from a mellow taste and lighter color.
“It’s an art form,” Kelly said. “We’re literally tasting and smelling to see which (fractions from the distiller) go into the barrel. It takes a long time to fill up a barrel.”
The tasting room offers six cocktails. Their team also has experimented with flavored whiskey, Kelly said. After receiving feedback from customers, their honey whiskey is less sweet than other honey whiskeys on the market from brands such as Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey.
A pumpkin spice whiskey, made with pumpkins from John Dart’s farm in Manley Hot Springs, is under development.
As the distillery moves forward, Kelly said, they hope to increase tasting room hours and the number of days it is open. Arctic Harvest also hopes to begin distilling vodka this weekend.
The tasting room at Arctic Harvest, 5.8 Mile Eielson Farm Road, is open 3-6 p.m. Saturdays. Follow the distillery on Facebook at Facebook.com/akgrownspirits.