Blaum Bros. Distilling Co.: The Hobby that Became a Career

The Blaum brothers always enjoyed catching up with a glass of whiskey between them, so when fate led them down a new path they made the most of it – all to Galena’s benefit.

Brothers and best friends Mike Blaum (left) and Matt Blaum (right) started making whiskey as a hobby before opening Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. in 2013. (Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. photos)

Matt and Mike Blaum are as close as two brothers can get. They’ve always been best friends, and while their professional careers took them on two separate paths, they’ve long enjoyed sharing a good whiskey together.

With research, fun and total commitment, they started making whiskey as a hobby. And now, they’ve transitioned that passion into a successful business as co-founders of Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., 9380 W. U.S. Hwy. 20, in Galena.

“I was working in the specialized field of nuclear pharmacy in the health care industry,” says Matt Blaum, “and Mike was with the National Security Agency. We had the urge to do something else and decided the next best thing to do was transition our nerdy hobby into our own business of distilling fine spirits.”

The brothers opened their business in December 2013. Although Matt and Mike have lived in various parts of Illinois and the country, past excursions to Galena made them realize it was an epicenter of activity.

“There were three main reasons that Galena was the perfect place for us,” says Matt. “It’s close to grain, it’s an active tourism area, and it’s a family-oriented community.”

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. has certainly made a mark in the industry. Matt proudly notes that its custom-crafted varieties of bourbon, rye, vodka and gin are now sold in eight states. The grain that fuels their work is sourced from a single provider: a Rockford farm that’s just 45 minutes away.

“Our farm partner is wonderful to work with,” adds Matt. “We forecast what we need, and they now deliver five 1,000-pound bags of grain right to our doors.”

There’s a wide selection of Blaum Bros. products to try, including the Galena Reserve, the Oldfangled Knoter Bourbon and the Absinthe Verte. The most popular products include the Blaum Bros. Straight Bourbon, Blaum Bros. Straight Rye and the bold HellFyre Vodka with soaked jalapenos, habaneros and black peppercorn. They’re all perfectly aged and crafted to make the best cocktail drink that’s served mixed, stirred or straight up.

The Galena-area tasting room invites people over 21 to relax, taste and find a favorite of their own. The atmosphere has a rec room feel with warm wood walls, plush leather chairs and barrel decor. Tours are available seven days a week, offering a comprehensive look at the art of distilling. The tour is a sensory experience that culminates in a visit to the comfortable tasting room and cocktail bar.

The Blaum brothers have totally acclimated themselves into the Galena community. Indeed, the five children between them attend Galena schools. They are both active in local organizations, too. Matt is Vice Chair of the Galena Area Chamber of Commerce, president of the Galena Center for the Arts and a board member of Galena Unit School District 120 and the Community Development Fund of Galena. Mike is a board member of the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society.

Community is important to the brothers, and that extends to Blaum Bros. Distillery Co. employees, too.
“We’re like family,” notes Matt. “Many of our employees have been with us for a long time. They are experienced, have fun and take great care of all of our customers.”

They’ll all be busier next spring when Blaum Bros. Distillery Co. opens it second location, a brand-new Distillery Pub on Galena’s Main Street.

The Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. tasting room is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 10 p.m., and Sunday to 5 p.m.