FERNDALE (WWJ) – Wish you could bottle success?

A Ferndale man is doing it, but it’s taken a lot of painstaking work. Rifino Valentine started Valentine Distilling company in 2008, in the depths of the recession.

“I worked on Wall Street for a number of years and it was actually a ‘dirty martini’ kick that kind of got me into this in the first place,” said Valentine.

“This” is now a booming business bottling and selling his own vodka, whiskey and gin.

“I got tired of being offered, as the best vodka,” said Valentine, “these imported, mass-produced … vodkas. And they were considered the best in the world.”

So he decided, why not make his own, made-in-Detroit brand? “I just thought to myself, the U.S., what made us great was manufacturing the highest quality products in the world. Why shouldn’t spirits be the same?”

With the motto “Nothing worthwhile comes easy,” Valentine began a painstaking years-long trial and error method of making his own recipe. He got a little help from the distilling program at Michigan State University. There were a lot of sleepless nights, he said, and times where he wasn’t sure if he would make it.

Now, Valentine Distilling is on the map, with Valentine opening a second Ferndale facility later this year so that he can extend his sales from seven to 20 U.S. states. While sales are good, Valentine is perhaps most proud of his mounting number of awards.

Awards like the Gold Medal for his Valentine Vodka at the World Spirits competition in San Francisco and the latest, the selection as the “World’s Best Cask Gin” for his Liberator Old Tom Gin.

Valentine has had to convince customers that a city with the reputation as the rust-bucket auto capitol of the world can produce high quality alcohol. He said that is still a daily battle. “That’s still the fight that I relish the most. I love it. I love that juxtaposition of a blue-collar gritty town producing a world class premium spirit.”

His distilling company joins what has become a booming alcohol business in the tiny town of Ferndale. Mayor Dave Coulter said the city now has the distillery, two breweries and two facilities that make the honey-based liquor called mead.

Valentine has a tasting room open at it’s location on Vester Street.


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