Michael Swanson is Head Distiller, Farmer and, with his wife, Cheri Reese, owner of Far North Spirits, one of a handful of craft distilleries in the U.S. that also grows its own grain. His intention of making the family farm sustainable for the next 100 years drew him home and, in 2013, he built the distillery in the middle of what was a wheat field on the Swanson family farm near the Canadian border. He makes whiskey, gin and rum while also growing rye and corn to support the distilling operation. He has been earnestly studying 15 different rye grain varietals’ influence on flavor in whiskey since 2015, with an impending March 2021 release of a first-of-its-kind rye study.
Prior to living out his dream of making award-winning craft spirits, he worked as a ski bum in Vail, a pharmaceutical sales rep in Idaho, a medical researcher in Denver, a food/wine writer in Minneapolis and a marketing manager for a Fortune 500 company in St. Paul – turns out, the ideal career path for an aspiring whiskey farmer. He received his bio/chem degree from Concordia College and his MBA from St. Thomas University.