Yahara Bay Distillers: Wisconsin to get its firs (legal) taste of locally distilled 10-year old whiskey

MADISON, WI – Ten years ago, Nick Quint, then 61-years old, came out of retirement to open Madison’s first distillery. And ten years later, Yahara Bay Distillers is not only going strong, the business has become an invaluable entity within the fabric of the community, supporting artists, musicians and other local philanthropic causes.

As their way of celebrating their anniversary and thanking the friends and supporters they’ve gained on their successful journey, Yahara Bay announced they will release the oldest aged whiskey ever legally produced in the state of Wisconsin. The distillery will unveil the product of their one-and-only 10-year old whiskey at their upcoming 10-year anniversary celebration. There are no current plans to make more of this special whiskey.

“This is an opportunity to taste a truly one of a kind craft spirit,” says Lars Forde, Yahara Bay’s Head Distiller and Production Manager. “We made one batch of this particular whiskey and set it aside for a decade. It only produces so much, so roughly 500 bottles will be available for sale. But we will have it on hand for those in attendance at the celebration to sample.”

Forde says the name of the whiskey will also be revealed at Yahara Bay’s 10-year anniversary celebration on Oct. 20 at their new distillery on at 6250 Nesbitt Rd.


“Whiskey” is an old English word derived from “water of life” in ancient languages. Technically, it only takes a few days to distill a barrel of whiskey, but it can take years for the taste and color to mature. Upon being sealed in a barrel, whiskey is clear and has similar properties to moonshine, tasting a lot like malted barley. But not long after it’s sealed, things get interesting.

For every batch of whiskey, there are two major factors that determine how it will taste a decade later: the wooden barrel it’s aged in and the environment the barrel is stored in. Traditionally, whiskey is aged in oak barrels that are either toasted or charred when they are built, creating a layer of charcoal that filters out the raw spirit’s unwanted flavors. Through a chemical process called adsorption, the molecules that make young whiskey so harsh are drawn to the barrel’s wall, creating a thin layer of everything you don’t want in a drink. At the same time, the wood adds flavor to the whisky, slowly infusing the liquor with lignin and vanillin (for vanilla-like taste), lactones (for a buttery flavor) and tannins or “wood spice” (which makes the whiskey dry).

Aging whiskey in a dryer climate like in Wisconsin also plays a big part in the taste. A dry environment helps the sealed whiskey to evaporate and concentrate. The older the whiskey, the more complex the taste, but there does come a point when whiskeys are aged too long and it affects the taste negatively. What’s the perfect age for a whiskey? Most recommend between six and ten years.


Yahara Bay Distillers began operations in 2007, becoming Madison’s first distillery and only the second distillery in Wisconsin. The distillery started slowly with only a handful of products, but soon began to grow thanks to help from friends, family and volunteers. With Nick Quint’s stepson and head distiller, Lars Forde at the helm of the still and wife/co-owner, Catherine Quint, running the distillery art gallery, Yahara Bay became more than just a family-run Madison business.

In 10 short years, Yahara Bay has gone from producing 3 products to over 40. They distribute to 20 different states, and in 2016 expanded into a new 20,000 square foot facility complete with an event space, tasting room, art gallery, and retail space.

Although Yahara Bay spirits can be found in places like Miami and Las Vegas, the company hasn’t forgotten its local roots. Madison will always be Yahara Bay’s home. Their spirits are still crafted one batch at a time, using local ingredients. Labels are often hand applied and some are even signed by their head distiller.

Yahara Bay’s growth can be attributed to the hard work of the team and a few simple concepts: never compromise quality or integrity, have a consistently strong commitment to the community, and most importantly work together as a family.