He, by some accounts, was Detroit’s best mayor. An “Idol of the People.” Regardless if you think he was the best, Mayor Hazen Pingree was legendary.

“Potato Patch Pingree” not only encouraged people to grow their own food to get through a crisis, but is also known for engaging in visibly national battles with Detroit’s streetcar, gas, electric, and telephone companies, which were considered monopolies. These crusades resulted in rate reductions that earned him widespread popularity and helped him get elected to become Michigan’s 24th Governor at the end of the 1800s.

Pingree has a statue in Grand Circus Park. There is a street named after him. And now, there’s a whiskey.

Valentine Distilling in Ferndale has rebranded their bourbon whiskey to “Mayor Pingree,” and the transition to the new name is being commemorated with the release of a limited edition 10-year old bottling, which is available for retail purchase at liquor stores and bars regionally.

There will be three kinds available, and you’ll be able to tell by the color of the label. The red label which is Valentine Distilling standard 4-year-aged bourbon, blue label which is a single barrel selection and black label which is an age stated bourbon anywhere from 8-10 years aged.

Hazen Pingree Detroit Statue

So what’s the reasoning behind the name change? It’s two fold.

Valentine Distilling Founder and CEO Rifino Valentine said that Pingree’s fight against utility giants is symbolic of Valentine’s quest against mega distillers, which is why he chose the iconic former mayor as the namesake for what Valentine says is one of the distillery’s most popular products.

“Mayor Pingree’s successful battles with some of Detroit’s largest and most powerful entities served as an inspiration in launching Valentine Distilling,” Valentine said. “We are a small southeast Michigan distillery taking on some of the world’s most prolific distillers of vodka, gin and whiskey. By adorning his name on one of our more popular products, we are honoring his legacy.”

The Potato Pingree bank along with a Pingree Pipe at the Detroit Historic Museum - Daily Detroit Photo
The Potato Pingree bank along with a Pingree Pipe at the Detroit Historic Museum – Daily Detroit Photo

The name change was also prompted to further differentiate Mayor Pingree whiskey from competing products with similar sounding names, such as Woodford Reserve. The old name was Woodward Ltd. Whiskey.

“Our signature bourbon has come into its own and we’re strategically changing the name to give it a unique brand identity that will better position it in the market and resonate with consumers,” said Valentine. “Every successful whiskey brand has a story, and a part of that story is its name. With this change, we’d like to believe we’ve made our story that much better.”

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