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Perlick Distillery

Perlick Distillery


After many tours of various distilleries, one thing I know for certain: there are two basic ingredients that combine to make a terrific, distilled beverage.  The first is excellent water, and the second is high-quality grains.  It just so happens that the Perlick farm in Sarona, Wisconsin has both.  Although we have been there a few times, every trip to the “tasting room” is special.  A recent one in early February was no different.

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from the upper level, one can look into the Perlick distilling room belowSometimes you just gotta say: “What the heck?!!”  It was a cold winter’s day, but even on a warm and sunny summer morning, when all you really want to do is get the boat out of the garage, head for your favorite lake and drown a worm or two.  And believe me, in northwestern Wisconsin, heading for your favorite lake – whether on the ice or on the water – is an easy thing to do.  But this story is not at all about fishing.  It’s about a farm kid-turned-lawyer who suddenly decided to turn Master Distiller.  Wait… I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.


A Summertime "Shrub" cocktailAs I said, this story is about a fifth generation farm kid from northwestern Wisconsin whose family bought a small farm in the Northwoods of Wisconsin in 1920.  The farm grew grains like wheat, barley, oats, corn, rye, flax, soybeans, and sunflowers; they still do.  As you can imagine, it was a tough life – farming is definitely that – trying to get value out of the poor soils of northwestern Wisconsin.  Five generations of Perlicks have put in a lot of sweat equity and very hard work trying to make a living on that farm.

In the current generation, son Scott had enlisted in the Air Force after high school and likely was not very interested in doing the farming thing for a living.  Tom (the patriarch) had an idea that would lend additional value to the crops the family was growing.  He pitched it to Scott who, at the time, was home on leave from his Air Force gig.  Maybe just a good idea at the wrong moment, but Scott apparently didn’t think the timing was quite right.

After finishing his stint in the service, Scott went on to study social science at the University of Wisconsin – Stout.  After that, Scott attended law school.  The knowledge he gained there turned out to be invaluable.  Perhaps now was the right time; further discussions between Scott and his dad led to confirmation of that.


Two proprietary Perlick cocktails and Perlick's Flagship American Yeoman Vodka in the middle

Scott did a lot of legwork, researching the basics of the distilling business and how to make vodka.  He also paid visits to other distilleries and started to gather the necessary equipment for the venture.  At some point after graduating from law school, he made the decision: run a distillery instead of pursuing a career in law.  And after all, John Q. Public would be the only “judge” he would now need to face.

Today, things are a bit different.  The farm has increased to about 3,000 acres, dedicating some 400 acres of wheat and 200 acres of barley (at last count) to production of their vodka: American Yeoman.  By the way, according to Wikipedia, Yeoman is: “a noun originally referring to one who owns and cultivates land…

And if you weren’t sure, one of the smoothest vodkas comes from one made with wheat.  Along with excellent water on the Perlick farm, their wheat is also excellent.  Those are the two basic and necessary ingredients I mentioned above for a great distilled product.


Perlick's Famous Bloody MaryPerlick Distillery offers half-hour tours to explain the process and the close, successful connection between home-grown wheat & barley and the on-site distillery.  It’s something very similar to grape vineyards and wineries.  It’s also something few distillers can claim.

The success of the product becomes more obvious with every passing day.  Open year ‘round, visitors – of the proper age – can sample Yeoman vodka in numerous iterations.  Select from a menu that includes the ever-popular Bloody Mary, various flavors of martinis and other cocktails.  When Perlick Distillery is open, it’s never easy to get a seat, even though lots of seats are available.

It should come as no surprise that Perlick’s American Yeoman vodka has achieved its success without doing any advertising.  The full parking lot and often overflowing tasting room is simply the result of word-of- mouth.


Sample Perlick Distillery Cocktail MenuAllow me to end by saying – unashamedly – that, at least to my taste, Perlick’s flagship vodka – American Yeoman – is far and away one of, if not the best vodkas I have had the pleasure of tasting.  The good news is that Perlick has ramped up production.  Yeoman vodka will be plentiful for the foreseeable future… at least in Wisconsin.  It is not yet available anywhere else.  But it is available at a couple of convenient  locations:   MarketPlace Foods and Stump Lake Liquors.  Both are located right here in Rice Lake!

More good news: Perlick Distillery will be releasing an American Single Malt Whiskey in the fall of 2023. With the excellent water and grains available on the Perlick farm, this whiskey is sure to be a winner!  I’ll be one of the first in line to taste it!

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We became full-time residents of the City of Rice Lake in 2021. It has been our goal and desire to contribute and give back to the City in a manner that will be as helpful as possible. It is also our goal to dedicate our efforts – and a steadily progressing and growing website – to the people and businesses of Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

Yvonne & Richard