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Rush Creek Distilling makes progress toward late summer open in Harvard

Rush Creek Distilling founders Jay Nolan (from left), Mark Striker, Jim McConoughey, Jeff McCarthy pose by the new still that arrived Memorial Day.
Rush Creek Distilling founders Jay Nolan (from left), Mark Striker, Jim McConoughey, Jeff McCarthy pose by the new still that arrived Memorial Day.

HARVARD – Drinkers will have a new place to sip quality spirits before Balloon Fest in September.

Rush Creek Distilling, at 1501 Diggins St., Harvard, plans a soft open by mid-July, and the goal is to fully launch by Balloon Fest, said Jim McConoughey, one of the founders of the project.

The distilling company has been two years in the making. Its stills arrived during Memorial Day weekend, which was exciting, he said.

“We are finishing up the tasting room and bar venues,” McConoughey said. “We have about 2,000 square feet of experience room, a couple of bars and tasting rooms.”

The distillery has about 8,000 square feet dedicated to its still house, where the spirits are made. Rush Creek plans to brew four types of whiskey, along with a traditional bourbon, a vodka and an American gin, which will have a light, botanical flavor as opposed to a dry taste, McConoughey said.

The distillery will feature a store where visitors can buy the specialty liquors – aimed to please everyone from inexperienced drinkers to someone with a seasoned whiskey palate – and memorabilia. Tours of the production space and tastings that focus on education also will be offered, McConoughey said.

“The still house is designed for production, but we made it strategic so we can get people through in a safe way where they can still learn about the production cycle,” he said.

The team has been working as much as possible with other craftspeople in McHenry County in building the distillery.

“We have been happy and successful to find a lot of these folks from stone workers, iron workers, welders – everything we could is designed from the best local businesses,” he said. “We are a craft distillery, and the word craft is very specific.”

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