Bankruptcy No Death Knell for Death’s Door Spirits

Some thought Death’s Door Spirits was on the rocks with the Nov. 21 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, however, that’s not now how the six-member team at the Middleton distillery sees it.

“It’s all happy news. We’re in a good spot,” said Margaret Ebeling, director of marketing at Death’s Door. “Death’s Door is open for business. We’re in full production, full distribution, so there is no interruption here. This is just the opportunity for us to do a hard reset and we’re pretty encouraged about what is happening.”

She said the business – which opened Wisconsin’s largest distillery in 2012, with a capacity of producing more than 250,000 cases annually – will be sold at auction next month.

“The business is being sold in total,” she said. “We’re not selling off pieces and parts. Anyone who comes in is going to want a fully functioning brand, a distillery and team. We’re really all committed to being there.”

The company name, of course, refers to the watery passage between Door County and Washington Island, where the distillery grows two varieties of hard red winter wheat for its gin, vodka and white whiskey. They also do an annual juniper harvest on the island for the gin, so the connection is a real one.

“We’re very proud of our roots on Washington Island,” Ebeling said. “We don’t want to see that go way. It’s part of our ethos, part of our story. It will always be that way. I think the good news is that anybody who is looking at this company would understand that that’s a very valuable piece of our foundation and who we are and wouldn’t want to disturb that in anyway. The Door has always been absolutely critical for our success.”

A group of Chicago investors has made an offer for the business, and Ebeling said she suspects there will be some more interest.

“This whole process is scheduled to move really pretty quickly,” she said. “They’re talking about the auction for somewhere around Dec. 19 and possibly close by the the end of year or early January. That allows us to stay focused on the brand.”

Ebeling said the filing has caused reflection in the company, and she said they are resolved to return under new ownership with a stronger push as Wisconsin being the home of the distillery, and she hopes Wisconsin responds with support.

“I think there were a few people right off the bat who thought they would have to buy products immediately because they wouldn’t find them anymore,” Ebeling said. “We don’t want to create a panic, but if you want to go out and pick a bottle, this is a perfect time to show your support for Wisconsin brands. If you truly believe in what we’re doing, now is the time to pick up a bottle. All that does is solidify our strength and position moving into this.”

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