The world travels of three pilots are about to make their way into your cocktail. Brandon Thornton, Scott Kaldenberg, and Jim Kaldenberg are celebrating the liftoff of a longtime dream—owning their own distillery and cocktail room.
Flying Dutchman Spirits, now open in Eden Prairie, is named for its co-owners’ affinity for flying and their mutual Dutch heritage. Pops of vivid orange, a color beloved by the Dutch, dot the cocktail room. Aeronautical items also punctuate the bar, including lights right off the taxiway.
The distillery’s name also pays homage to the tale of the Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship that forever roams the Seven Seas. Like their ghostly namesake, the co-owners continue to travel the world, often returning home with flavors and inspiration drawn from overseas.
Drinkers will quickly note their wanderlust in Flying Dutchman’s spirits. Four spirits and eleven cocktails are available upon opening, each offering a flavor or story from across the world.
Mediterraneo is a gin light on the pine and heavy on mediterranean flavors such as citrus, basil, thyme, olives, and rosemary. The blue agave spirit, Frontera Norte, is a take on the tequila and mezcal styles originating in Mexico. The distillery’s Sailor’s Rantsoen Rum, which translates to “Sailor’s Ration,” is a nod to the tradition of rum in sailing. Nas-Drov-Via is a potato- and corn-based vodka citing the Polish exclamation for “good health.”
Brandon Thornton and Scott Kaldenberg will man the distilling, a process that can be managed remotely with their unique equipment setup, which is one of three like it in the United States.
Imported from Hungary after much research, Flying Dutchman’s system allows the co-owners to monitor the distillation process remotely (though they will always have someone onsite during distilling for safety reasons, says Brandon.) Not only is this system convenient for the ambitious unable-to-retire entrepreneurs, it also produces data to improve replicability.
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Flying Dutchman’s spirits // Photos by Aaron Davidson
For the co-owners, who boast a chemical engineering degree and decades of homebrewing experience among them, repeatability and predictability are their primary goal in distillation. Given the plans for expansion, they must remain focused on becoming a smooth running (and drinking) operation.
Flying Dutchman’s distillation method is notable beyond its automation: it also supports sustainable practices. The co-owners made conscious—and sometimes expensive—choices to lessen their environmental impact. For example, they engineered their still to reuse water for cleaning, and they invested in a 1 million BTU boiler that is 91-percent efficient. They also send the corn they use to mash and ferment their wash back to their Minnesota supplier so it can be used as animal feed on the farm, which keeps it out of landfills.
Sourcing from local farm cooperatives might seem like a worn-out trope of the craft industry, but Flying Dutchman is choosing the harder path with this method. According to the co-owners, many non-craft distilleries pass over the laborious mashing and fermenting processes in favor of buying neutral grain spirit (or NGS) in bulk and slightly altering it before bottling. Flying Dutchman’s spirits, in contrast, will truly come from farm to glass—and back again.
Starting from the raw grain and processing it all in house does increase the chance of variability from batch to batch, Scott Kaldenberg says, “So, we addressed it by automation and consistency from a production point of view. Other people address it by massive blending tanks. We chose the upfront equipment approach.”
Patrons can get a closer look at the equipment and taste through Flying Dutchman’s lineup of spirits at the aviation-inspired cocktail room in Eden Prairie. The establishment is under-21 friendly, but such guests must be accompanied by someone of legal drinking age.
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Photos by Aaron Davidson
Distillers: Brandon Thornton and Scott Kaldenberg
Spirits: Mediterraneo Gin, Frontera Norte Blue Agave Spirit, Sailor’s Rantsoen Rum, Nas-Drov-Via Vodka
Address: 6801 Flying Cloud Dr, Eden Prairie, MN
Hours: Thu & Fri 4–10pm, Saturday 2–10pm