To continue with our local holiday theme, I want to focus on some local libations. Sure, Cincinnati is known for beer– but did you know that you can buy local whiskey? Or, if you travel just a bit north, you can find some more micro distilleries? Locavorism says local is anything within 150 miles, right? Columbus is about 100 miles, so it’s well within our range. Columbus, Ohio has a quite a growing spirits community, and I got to tour one distillery and meet with the distillers. Both make really great products that any spirit enthusiast would love to have under their tree. Thanks to Experience Columbus for exposing me to the Columbus distillers– it might have taken a bit for me to find them on my own. But first, Cincinnati:
If you buy this stuff, the giftee will love you. Promise. Woodstone Creek is a small Cincinnati distillery, and only produces between 2-5 barrels per year of their whiskey, which runs about $80 per bottle. Yeah, you heard me. It’s expensive because it’s a craft bourbon instead of a macro. It’s also the first bourbon from a new distillery since Maker’s Mark in 1959. I’m guessing that we’ll be seeing more new bourbons with the trend towards craft and microdistilling becoming even more fashionable. It’s a trend and a fashion that I rather like. It’s a little spicy, but not too heavy as it’s fairly young. They also make a single malt whiskey made in the Scotch tradition (that runs $100) as well as a vodka and gin. You can try Woodstone Creek at Japp’s– I haven’t seen it anywhere else. You can purchase bottles from Woodstone Creek or at the Party Source.
OYO Honey Vanilla Vodka
I’m not the biggest vodka fan because, in general, vodka has had any flavor processed out of it– it’s not far off from the ethanol used in gasoline (yuck). And yes, this means your beloved Grey Goose or Ketel One, too. Tasting these large, commercial vodkas next to a small, craft vodka like OYO is like night and day. The commercial vodkas taste like pure alcohol (which is why they say it’s best chilled), whereas OYO isn’t as harsh– in fact, it’s creamy and silky. It’s processed so you can actually taste the grain they’ve used to create it: soft, Ohio winter wheat. For the holidays one year, they created a Honey Vanilla vodka, infused with local honey and real vanilla beans and it was a hit– so much of one that they carry it year ’round. It’s subtle: honey, vanilla, cream– it’s actually good neat, and it’s not overwhelming or fake, like most other “flavored” vodkas are. It would be killer simply mixed with cola; I like it with my homemade cream soda syrup. You can purchase this in both Ohio and Kentucky. OYO also does a regular, award-winning vodka, as mentioned, as well as a whiskey, which is only available at their distillery in Columbus. If you want to try it without investing in a whole bottle, head to Japp’s or Taste of Belgium– I’ve noticed that they both carry it.
This is a gin that, if you don’t like gin, you might like. If you do like gin, you’ll find it new and different. Unlike New Amsterdam, which has very little juniper, but a lot of citrus (making it one of my favorite “gateway gins”, this one is still citrus-forward but with a lot of juniper and coriander to give it that green, herbaceous quality that is typical of gin. You could use this in any standard Gin cocktail (pair it with some Q tonic and you have a delicious, simple drink) and have very good results. The guys who run this micro distillery are passionate about quality and their product, and are currently aging some whiskey that should be out in a few years. I’m looking forward to trying it. Watershed products are available in Ohio and Kentucky; if you want to try it before purchasing, try Japp’s or Taste of Belgium. I noticed they both carried Watershed products. If you know of other bars carrying the products, please comment here.
A bottle of any of these make a great gift for a host or hostess, a friend who’s into cocktails, or that drunk relative we all have who really ought to start drinking the good stuff.
(Disclosure: Watershed sent me samples of their product, and I experienced OYO for the first time on a media tour of Columbus. I purchased OYO and Woodstone myself. Any free product does not influence my opinion.)
Watershed Gin photo courtesy Watershed Distillery. OYO photo taken by me in their distillery. Woodstone Creek photo courtesy Woodstone Creek.