A Grand Rapids distillery has adopted a new name to reflect its Grand River heritage.
Gray Skies Distillery re-branded itself today as Eastern Kille, a name intended to invoke thoughts of the eastern bank of the Grand River, where the distillery is located in the Monroe North neighborhood.
The new name comes after Gray Skies entered a trademark dispute with Campari Group, the maker of Skyy Vodka, which claimed Gray Skies was too similar of a name, said Steve Vander Pol, co-owner, Eastern Kille. Not wanting to draw out the dispute, Gray Skies chose to re-brand as Eastern Kille, and the trademark dispute was resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.
“We started our distillery in 2014 to produce premium spirits, with Great Lakes water and with Michigan pride,” Vander Pol said. “We set out to craft authentic spirits with quality, natural ingredients, distilled and bottled in the heart of Grand Rapids — our new name reflects that commitment.”
Brandon Voorhees, co-owner of the distillery, said the name Eastern Kille was chosen for a couple of reasons. The word “kille” means waterway in Middle Dutch, which was the forerunner to the modern Dutch language and spoken between 1150 and 1500. It also reflects both Grand Rapids’ geography and prominent Dutch heritage.
“The other reason really is kille is Middle Dutch, a language that does not exist anymore, so it’s almost like a fanciful term,” Voorhees said. “We believe we should have no more issues going forward.”
To celebrate the re-branding, Eastern Kille also released a new aged spirit: its Michigan Straight Bourbon Whiskey, available now at the Eastern Kille taproom, at 700 Ottawa Ave. NW, and at retailers throughout Michigan.
“We've created a bourbon to be sipped with the best of them, a bourbon Michiganders can call their own,” Vander Pol said.