NOTE: Scroll down for a gallery of images of the Blaum Bros. tour, distillery, and barroom floor!

It was an afternoon of bourbon, big laughs, and good-natured camaraderie at Galena's acclaimed distillery, Blaum Bros.

And after hearing the origins story of brothers Matt and Mike, and understanding their sense of humor, you emerge thinking that's just what they envisioned for their humble yet powerful operation located on Highway 20 in Galena, IL.

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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During my recent vacation in Galena, the one thing I implored of my father was to agree to go on a tour of the Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. with me and our friends. I couldn't believe after coming up to Galena from the Chicagoland suburbs for the better part of nine years, he never thought to stop.

Tours of the distillery run once Monday through Thursday, thrice on Friday, five times on Saturday, and twice on Sunday.

Because I want you to experience Blaum Bros. for yourself, I don't want to give away any of the insights of the brothers' journey nor the specifics of the tour. But I will say the tour touches on a number of different elements, including: the distilling process, the functions of various pieces of equipment, the biology of a whiskey barrel, the variety of spirits made by Blaum Bros., and more.

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
The Galena Smash at Blaum Bros., served stiff, refreshing, and delicious. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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The brothers control the entire operation: "from the milling of the raw grains, to the mashing, fermentation, and distillation on their custom made copper still," according to their website.

Blaum Bros' cocktail menu. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Blaum Bros' cocktail menu. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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Perhaps rivaling only the distilling process in sheer comprehension and detail is Blaum Bros' extensive cocktail menu. These are not basic highball cocktails. They are elaborate drinks that take several minutes to create and serve. As soon as you try one, you're eyeing your next one on the menu. Part of that is because the cocktails satisfy any palette: there's something if you want sweet (chocolate martini), citrussy (Galena Smash), eclectic (Sazerac), or stiff (breakfast bourbon).

Mark, the Distillery Cat at Blaum Bros. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Mark, the Distillery Cat at Blaum Bros. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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One particular cutie stole the entire Blaum Bros. show, at least for me. His name is Mark and he's the distillery cat. A Maine Coon, made even more unique due to an extra finger on each of his paws, Mark wanders the entire building. Sometimes he's sunning himself under the ceiling lights, towered by the vats in the distillery. Other times, he's walking the barroom floor (perhaps hoping a customer spills and he'll get a head-start on a buzz).

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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The tour concluded with samples of three different spirits: Blaum Bros. gin, vodka, and bourbon. The bourbon was my favorite, unsurprisingly (I've never been a big fan of clear liquor). However, the Hellfyre vodka is rewarding if you're brave enough. Imagine jalapeños, habaneros, and black peppercorn soaking in vodka and the powerful flavor that would emerge.

It's a strong one, but like the entire Blaum Bros. experience, it's absolutely worth trying.

Take a look at some photos of Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. along with the special tour!

A Look Inside Blaum Bros. Distillery in Galena

A look at Blaum Bros. Distillery's bar, distilling process, cocktails and more!