Indian Creek Distillery
New Carlisle, OH
Where History is Displayed and Bottled Every Day
To understand what Indian Creek Distillery means to Missy and Joe Duer, you have to go back in history. Way back. This distilling couple is the sixth generation to own, but certainly not the first to operate, the copper stills that make up the focal point of their distillery.
Entering the Indian Creek Distillery is like walking into an 1820s booze-making establishment. To the extent possible, their Staley Whiskeys are done as faithfully, and slowly, as Missy’s fifth great-grandfather would have wanted. The couple even has his original 19th century recipe to follow.
What kind of product does Indian Creek make? The answer to that question depends upon which bottle you open. Currently, the Duers make two types of whiskey: an unaged and an aged rye mash whiskey. But according to Missy and Joe, the flavors don’t come from the mash bill and oak, they come from the nearly-200-year-old stills themselves. During Prohibition, the copper stills were dismantled and hidden in one of the outbuildings on the Duer’s property. It wasn’t until 2012 that they were reassembled and put back into use. Despite the long layoff, Missy and Joe point out that “the stills remember” how to make whiskey. Every nook and cranny has captured over a century of flavor and that memory finds its way into every bottle.
The stills aren’t the only historical items resurrected and refurbished for the sake of making whiskey. The grain is milled using the farm’s original stone mill. The baseboards in the distillery are cut from the woods on their property. Even the bricks that form the base of the stills are from buildings on the property and would have been made on the land over six generations earlier.
Following a 200-year-old recipe and using 200-year-old equipment means making Staley Rye Whiskey requires patience. The entire process can take a week and starts with a three day fermentation using the artisan springs on the land to supply the water. The limestone springs provide all the unique minerals that give Indian Creek whiskey so much of its flavor.
After the three days of fermentation are over, the mash (now called the distiller’s beer) is fed into the beer stripping still and distilled to 20 proof. It is then collected and fed into the second still where it is distilled to 110-120 proof. The old stills take their time with distillation. When the stills are running at full production the flow of whiskey is only about the size of a wooden matchstick. Missy and Joe were told slow and small make the best whiskeys, so they refuse to let their whiskeys roll out in gallons.
After the second distillation, the Duers again follow the old, and unique, practice of cutting their high proof whiskey with lower proof whiskey. They don’t want to water down the product that goes into the final bottle. The end result is a whiskey that changes from bottle to bottle, a variation the Duers embrace.
Whereas the Indian Creek whiskey made 200 years ago was served from jugs, today's Indian Creek whiskeys are in bottles adorned with hand-designed labels. The labels include reprinted ledger entries from the original distillery.
The 19th century Indian Creek Distillery aged its whiskeys in a hickory barrel. However, because federal law requires that whiskey be aged in an oak barrel, the Duers were forced to get creative. To live within the law and stay true to their ancestors, the Duers use oak barrels, but also insert hickory staves to give their whiskey its authentic flavor.
Missy and Joe are very open about what you get when you visit their distillery and drink their whiskey. You are getting their history and you are getting exactly who they are. Since their families have lived on the same property for six generations, as have their neighbors, they know that they can’t lie about who they are and what they sell. Missy and Joe's whiskeys and distillery truly reflect the history and authenticity of their story and community.
For more information on the Indian Creek Distillery, visit its website at http://www.staleymillfarmanddistillery.com/