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WDIO-TV: Exclusive Tour of First Distillery to Operate on Upper Midwest Tribal Land

Apr 21, 2018 10:23AM ● Published by Editor

Take the tour of Copper Crow Distillery with WDIO-TV.

From WDIO-TV - April 20, 2018

A Wisconsin couple say they will be operating the first distillery on tribal lands in the Upper Midwest.

Curtis Basina and his wife are owners of the Copper Crow Distillery on the Red Cliff Tribal Reservation. After more than two years-worth of ground work, the facility will open its doors to the public on Saturday.

But even just a day before the opening, the couple are quick to take of last minute preparations ahead of Saturday’s ribbon cutting.

"There's probably enough spirit in here to bottle 700 bottles," said Basina after opening a high-proof filtration tank.

Basina says he cuts with the 190 proof raw spirit with the finest water around.

"Right from Lake Superior. And we filter that water, in addition, and cut it with quality Lake Superior water,” said Basina.

Although the distillery will only sell their flagship vodka, they are already looking to expand beyond the clear spirits, including brandy and bourbon amongst others.

"This is the first barrel of rye whiskey we produced. We got it into a barrel about four to five days ago."

However, it’s a clear spirit made from a cheesy byproduct that could raise some eyebrows.

"We're close to our whey-based vodka, but we first want to finish up the research with the [University of Wisconsin] system. We will be one out of only a dozen distilleries in the world that will be working on a whey-based spirit,” said Basina.

The name of the distillery may sound a bit odd, too, But Basina says it comes from his heritage.

"There's a lot of copper obviously that used in the distillation process,” said Basina.

Furthermore, it also gives homage to his former profession.

“Believe it or not, I used to be a police officer, so I used to be a cop,” said Basina.

The former ‘copper’ retired from the Wisconsin State Patrol, but the other name in the title represents the heritage he and his wife both share with the Red Cliff Reservation.

"Crows have a lot of spiritual significance with tribal members and they're so smart,” said Basina.

The owners hope to sell about 500 cases within the first year of production, with each case containing 12 bottles of the vodka. And they are hoping to pair with the area casino to increase local sales.

"We'll open up to the general public and hope for the best,” said Basina.

But to Curtis and his wife, the distillery is also a beacon of hope for those of similar heritage.

We want to show that tribal members can be successful in small business and private enterprise,” said Basina.

Wisconsin law states that you need to go through a wholesale liquor distributor to sell liquor outside of the distillery, and that’s something Copper Crow hopes to do very soon. Basina says the only way to buy a bottle of the vodka is to do so at the Red Cliff facility.

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