Bringing the Ag Industry full circle at Mystic Farm and Distillery

by | Aug 10, 2023

#EscapeWithNCAg is a year-long series that will focus on agritourism across North Carolina. Many farms, wineries and other agricultural businesses in our state offer events such as tours, yoga, educational classes, pick-your-own events and festivals, to entertain the public and teach them about our state’s number one industry. Each Thursday, we will feature a new site for you to visit with friends or family. Stay tuned and learn how to escape the stresses of life by diving into agriculture! 

Did you know that distilleries help tell the story of N.C. Agriculture through the products that they make? Mystic Farm and Distillery in Durham places strict focus on showcasing their role in the agriculture industry and educating people on the importance of distilleries in our state. From pro-wrestling and murder mystery dinners to cocktail making classes and line dancing, they host a variety of events throughout the year to appeal to all audiences and immerse them in the world of liquor made in the heart of N.C.

Mystic may focus on the local market, but this year their Broken Oak bourbon was named “Best Small Batch Bourbon up to 5 years” out of hundreds of other bourbons at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Many bourbon lovers were shocked that North Carolina bourbon unseated hundreds of famous brands from Kentucky!

In 2013, Mystic Farm and Distillery began producing their first product in downtown Durham. Mike Sinclair and Jonathan Blitz, co-founders and owners of Mystic Farm and Distillery, were both always fascinated by the process of fermentation and making alcohol products. Although from different professional worlds, Mike working at a utility grid software company and Jonathan practicing law, the two came together in 2013 to pursue their passion for local beverages together. “I have always been intrigued by the art and process of distilling different liquors,” Jonathan said. “So, to do that every day in a way that showcases the heart and soul of our state, is a dream come true.” In 2015, Jonathan and Mike, along with their spouses, purchased a 22-acre piece of land in Durham and started building the distillery as it stands today.

Jonathan and Mike take pride in sourcing as many of their ingredients as possible from North Carolina. They currently work with a partner farm in Hillsborough to grow their own grain. They also take pride in sourcing local wood to use in the creation of their barrels that products are stored and aged in. “A lot of people don’t realize that the distilling industry is a full circle look at the agriculture industry,” Jonathan said. “We take many local products, like wood, water, and grain, and turn them into one superior product, like bourbon or vodka. Then we take the leftover grain and return it to our partner farm for livestock feed.” The nutrients in the spent mash are beneficial to many livestock animals due to the high protein content of the yeast and grain solids left over after the distillation process.

Although the farm & distillery began offering tours in 2015, they didn’t fully start ramping up agritourism events until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, you may recognize their farm name due to the high volume of hand sanitizer that they produced during that time! “We provided hand sanitizer for over 200 health care facilities during the pandemic,” Jonathan said. “It was a great way to utilize our business model and help people across the state at the same time.” Once the world started to come alive again in 2021, Mystic Farm and Distillery started their big push toward agritourism.

Mike and Jonathan dove head-first into the agritourism industry by offering a wide variety of events that cater to a large audience. “We are always looking for something fun and unique to offer out here,” Mike said. “Our main goal is to get people out to the distillery so that we can teach them about our state’s number one industry, how Mystic Distillery plays a part in it and allow them to try our products.” Not only do they offer three different facility tours, but they also host many events throughout the year, including Bourbon and Chocolate pairing classes with Videri Chocolate, Line Dancing, Murder Mystery Dinners, Pro-Wrestling, Cooking Competitions and more. All of these events can be found on their website and social media pages, so keep an eye out for what interests you!

The distillery offers three farm tours for individuals based on the depth of knowledge that they would like to receive. Their guided tours are a one-hour experience offered on Saturday and Sunday that dig into the process, aging and product sampling. However, if you’re looking for a little longer tour with more in-depth information on the process, tasting of the grains and aging, then check out their two-hour luxury tours that are offered Tuesday through Friday. These tours are offered to private groups, so you and your family or friends could experience it on your own. Both tours can be booked on their website.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to make your own bourbon? Then the third and final tour is for you! The Single Barrel Experience is an all-day event that is offered for groups of eight people or less. Mike and Jonathan will walk you through the process and help you make your very own barrel of Bourbon whiskey from start to finish, including grain milling, mashing, and aging. “This experience is really unique because it allows families or friend groups to create a liquor that is all their own,” Jonathan said. “Once the process is complete, Mike and I decide how long the spirit should be aged and the participants are allowed to come back each year to sample their product and take a bottle home.” At the end of the process, the barrel itself is also available for purchase. The Single Barrel experience costs a total of $1,300 for up to eight people and includes a full-day experience, a sample bottle from each year from the first fill of the barrel to the first production bottle, lunch, a tasting sniffer, product sampling and a limited-edition work shirt. More information, including how to book your experience, can be found on their website.

No matter what event you choose to attend at Mystic Farm and Distillery, Mike and Jonathan promise that you will leave with a sense of connectivity to the N.C. Agriculture industry and a new favorite beverage. “We like to show our customers how we embody the heart and soul of North Carolina through our location, ingredients and final products,” Jonathan said. “Teaching people our process and explaining how integral we are in the community is rewarding in itself, but then watching them enjoy our products and take some home to share with their friends and family is the cherry on top.”

Products from Mystic Farm and Distillery can be found on-site at the distillery or at select NC ABC stores. They offer a wide variety of products, like bourbon, vodka, gin, and run, as well as a few non-alcoholic products, like BBQ sauce and maple syrup. They also have many merch items available to help you share the local love, including hats, t-shirts, and hoodies.

So, add Mystic Farms and Distillery’s website to the bookmarks on your computer and keep an eye on their upcoming events. We guarantee that the experience will be well worth the trip!