Royal Oak is about to have a new micro distillery. Just a few blocks from Valentine Distilling's swanky tasting room, a new whiskey maker has set up shop. Owned and operated by Rich Lockwood and his wife, Tonya, the distillery, called Motor City Gas, will specialize in whiskey. They'll be selling their first bottles today.
Why the name Motor City Gas? Lockwood says he and his buddies used to refer to whiskey as gas and the name just stuck. He says the name Motor City Gas just seemed like a perfect fit, so that's what he went with. But, the process of getting the doors to the distillery open hasn't been as easy as picking out a name. Lockwood has been working on the space since 2013, so today's opening has been a long time coming.
For now the intimate space will serve strictly whiskey that's made on-site. Lockwood says they'll be serving a rye whiskey that's similar to a bourbon, thanks to its high corn content, but later this spring they're hoping to unveil a bourbon along with an apple pie moonshine and they'd also like to get into infusions and whiskey-based liqueurs. As for their tasting room options, they hope to expand their offerings to include cocktails as well as appetizers and small menu items.
The two-year-long process of getting Motor City Gas ready for the public has been mostly spent perfecting the space and getting the whiskey ready. Tonya Lockwood notes that getting the stills set up isn't an easy process, especially considering it isn't every plumber that knows and fully understands how to set up the sort of system that distilling requires.
Some whiskey barrels in the back room at Motor City Gas
The couple also designed and renovated the space themselves, with a little help, of course. The interior is very rustic, mostly due to the use of wood from an old barn on the west side of the state. They installed sliding barn-style doors on that will open to allow patrons to watch the distilling process and interact with the distillers. Since the place is so small, that's about as much as they need to give a full-fledged tour.
Of course, small is the way Lockwood likes it right now. He says they're hoping to grow slowly, staying focused on craft along the way. Sure, eventually they might like to distribute, but that's a long way off for Motor City Gas right now. Which means you have to stop by their tasting room to sample (or buy a bottle of) their whiskey.
Chances are if you're stopping by, you'll be interacting with Lockwood himself. Other than today, when Lockwood says they'll have some friends helping them out for the St. Patrick's Day rush, the couple only employs one other person, Mike Mazur, and Tonya Lockwood still works in health care administration.
Motor City Gas is located at 325 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak. They'll be open today from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.