Meet the Distiller: Rifino Valentine

July 27, 2016

Join us on Tuesday, August 2 for Talk, Taste & Savor: a Dinner with Valentine Distillery Co. where Chef Stephen Gillanders pairs his Korean dishes with the high-quality, hand-made spirits. More info here!

Rifino Valentine, the man behind Valentine Distilling Co. is on a mission to produce the highest quality spirits on a small scale, made and bottled by hand, and capable of competing on the international stage. “I have a simple philosophy: everything that I do must be done with quality in mind above all else, the way it was meant to be done. I’ve always appreciated the American craftsman; working by hand, making one of kind items that stand the test of time. In distillation, this means selecting the best ingredients, distilling in small batches, and taking care in every single step of the process. I take great pride in using old world techniques, techniques that haven’t changed in centuries. There are no computers controlling the stills, just my sense of taste and smell to determine the cuts.”

Why spirits? As a young trader on Wall Street, Rifino loved his dirty martinis. “I would tell bartenders give me your best dirty,” he says. He noticed the vodka was always imported. “Why can’t we make world-class vodka in the U.S.?” he wondered. So he moved to Michigan to learn about artisan distilling at Michigan State University. MSU is the only public university in the country to runs an artisan distillery program.

With only a dozen or so micro-distilleries in the country in 2007 (now there are over 400), Valentine opened his Detroit-based, artisan distilling company (the area’s first since Prohibition). With all of the news surrounding Detroit and it's reputation of fostering adventurous entrepreneurs, the Motor City was a natural choice for Valentine. After all, Detroit is a poster child for U.S. manufacturing. The first bottle of vodka went into distribution in February 2008.