After years of traveling for their jobs, Scott Kaldenberg and Brandon Thornton were on the hunt for a new adventure, one near their Eden Prairie homes. “I traveled Monday through Friday for the majority of my career,” explains Kaldenberg, a retired management consultant. “I didn’t want to be in any [commercial] airplanes. I didn’t want to be in traffic.”
Both brewed beer at home, and a long-ago visit by Kaldenberg to a distillery in Wisconsin planted the seeds of Flying Dutchman Spirits in Eden Prairie. The distillery and 50-seat cocktail room, crafting “artisan spirits inspired from flavors around the world,” opened in April in the city’s industrial area, next to a planned light-rail transit line. It’s the first alcohol manufacturer in Eden Prairie.
“I’ve always been interested in distillation,” Kaldenberg says. “When I was looking at retiring, my wife said, ‘You need to look at doing something to fill the day.’ So, I thought, ‘Why not open a distillery?’ And I coaxed Brandon into it.” Thornton, a project management consultant with a chemical engineering background who worked with Kaldenberg years ago, came on board, along with Kaldenberg’s uncle, Jim, of Des Moines, Iowa.
Their goal was simple. “Make good stuff, maybe something known but slightly different,” he says. “But also introduce people to other things we’ve experienced outside the U.S.” Getting the spirits just right was a “fun research project,” Thornton says. “The idea was to do four, distinct quality spirits that people are willing to drink, as in people know them,” he says. “Then, they can trust the Flying Dutchman brand to try some different things.”
Flying Dutchman’s Mediterráneo Gin is a “contemporary take on a London Dry enhanced with Mediterranean flavors." Frontera Norte is made from 100 percent blue agave, just like fine tequila. (It can’t be called tequila, since that’s made only in Mexico, in the state of Jalisco and several limited regions.) Savor’s Rantsoen is a Caribbean-style rum, using sugar canes instead of molasses. Nas-Drov-Via is a vodka made with potatoes. A fifth spirit is in the works, an attempt to make something like a single-malt Scotch.
Both men want to immerse patrons in the experience and culture of what it’s like to craft the spirits in an industrial environment. That’s why there is no curtain between the cocktail room and the still. “Look at what people are doing with beer lately,” Thornton says. “They’re teaching you so much about the malting process. No one has really done that with spirits.”
Thornton says cocktails will highlight the spirits, “where you can taste them and enjoy them.” Spirits made on premises are the only alcohol that can be used in mixed drinks. “I don’t think a cocktail should have more than five ingredients and most of that better be booze,” Kaldenberg says.
The Flying Dutchman name is a nod to what the three founders have in common—all are of Dutch heritage and are private pilots. It also salutes the legacy of the Flying Dutchman ship.
“It’s always on the prowl for something new,” Kaldenberg says. Part of the Flying Dutchman story is on the bottle labels. Look closely, and you’ll see a shield superimposed on an aeronautical chart. “The bottom tip of the shield points to where the distillery sits,” Kaldenberg says.