Ohio Distillers Embrace Craft’s Past, Future


Ohio craft distilleries come from two camps — one that gives due deference to distilling’s history, spanning centuries and continents, and the other which wants only to shake up things.

Both have profited from and aided in the phenomenal growth associated with the cocktail revival that continues its appeal. The American Craft Spirits Association reported last fall that annual sales through August topped 7.1 million cases.

Also, both camps appear to have broad appeal and brand-faithful supporters, who eagerly await “their guy’s” next distilled creation.

Recent craft distillery growth demonstrated individual distilleries are selling a greater volume of spirits rather than all of the growth coming from new distilleries coming online.

Harry Kohlmann, CEO of Park Street, a consultancy that assisted ACSA’s assessment of its sales, told Winemag.com that last year was the first time that volume in the market grew faster than the number of distillers.

“This is a healthy metric for this industry, and good for new distillers entering the market,” he told the publication.

Volume of the average U.S. craft distiller reached 4,096 cases in 2017, up 0.9 percent from the previous year.

Some of the Buckeye State’s better known “traditionalist” craft distillers include Belle of Dayton, Fairborn’s Flat Rock Spirits and Indian Creek Distillery in New Carlisle.

At Belle, the LaSelle brothers were lured by the century-old mystique of producing great liquor, inspiring the trio to create small-batch artisan spirits. They studied the art of distillation under some of the world’s best master distillers and consider their products an homage to hard-work, ingenuity and honest craftsmanship.

A love for great handcrafted spirits led Flat Rock distillers to create their own bourbon, moonshine and rum with a dedication to craftsmanship.

At Indian Creek, a descendent of the Staley family has picked up where her ancestors left off, using the oldest copper potstills in production today. They characterize their whiskies as a “true sip of history” — uniquely small batch and created with a dedication to authenticity.

Cleveland Whiskey and Columbus-based distilleries Karate Cowboy and 451 Spirits are among the group looking to upset the status quo.

Cleveland Whiskey bills itself as “whiskey without limits,” and is known for blending science, craft and innovation to create its award-winning spirits and provide a launchpad for further cocktail development.

Karate Cowboy, known for its East-West fusion, has embraced the “be different” ethos by operating in an unconventional fashion, while 451 Spirits wants to change the way consumers think about what they drink. Its line features new styles and new flavors to push whiskey and spirits to the outer limits.