Watershed Distillery > USA

Watershed Distillery > USA
Watershed was founded by Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo in 2010, but the idea to start a distillery was conceived years earlier while Lehman was playing professional volleyball in Switzerland. Inspired by the locally produced spirits that were common in the area, Greg thought about the possibility of creating spirits in his Ohio hometown Columbus. He shared his idea with Dave and they began working on making it a reality.

Before prohibition, Ohio was home to dozens of distilleries producing unique flavors specific to the region. However, since prohibition Ohio is one of the most difficult states to start a distillery. In 2007, Greg and Dave began working on what would become the newest addition to the very long history of micro-distilling in Ohio, Watershed Distillery, famous for world-class vodka, gin, and bourbon. Working a custom made Kothe still from Germany, Greg and Dave create unique and pure spirits that have been turning heads from the Midwest to the eastern seaboard.

Overall process:
Both the Vodka and both Gins have a base of 100% Corn, with an overwhelming majority from Ohio. Everything comes in one truckload at a time and is augured into the 1200 bushel grain bin in the back of the distillery. The corn comes in cleaned and whole kernel. It is then augered into the hopper above the mill and begins to feed the mill. An 8/32 screen is used to get the corn as fine as possible before it is sent through a second auger. The corn gets pushed through the 2nd auger into a hold bin above the mash cooker. For the Vodka or the Gins the mash bill is the same at this point (100% corn). For the Bourbon, it is a blend of mostly corn with wheat, rye and 5% spelt. After all the grain has been milled and is in the grain bin above the mash cooker, the flour is slowly fed into the mash cooker, that has approximately 700 gallons of hot water at this point. It typically takes 30 minutes or so to add all of the 2000 lbs of grain for one mash. It is done slowly so that it mixes and cooks evenly. Some alpha amylase is added along the way to help with starch conversion. After that, the mash cooks for 90 minutes at 190 degrees before the cooling process is started by pumping chilled water through the dual jacketed mash cooker. Once it is down to 140 degrees, some gluco amylase is added to continue the starch conversion. The mash keeps getting cooled until it reaches 75 degrees. Vodka or Whiskey strains of yeast (depending on which is being made) is then added and the mash is pumped into one of the 1000 gallon fermenters. It ferments for anywhere from 4 to 5 days. Once fermentation is complete, the distiller’s beer is pumped into the big still.
Watershed Distillery Website
Vodka (100% Corn)
Watershed Vodka is made of 100% high quality corn grown in the midwest and sourced from a family operation. It is quadruple-distilled, giving the spirit a light body and smooth drinkability. Using corn allows a very subtle sweetness to the Vodka, but the main attribute is its sheer purity.
The process: Greg and Dave just installed a new 2500 Liter still that allows them to only do 2 runs of the still instead of the many runs they had to do so far. They take the 100% corn mash and do one stripping run. No heads, hearts, or tails are separated at this point. All they want to accomplish is getting the alcohol separated from the rest of the mash. After they strip 3 mashes, they collect all of the alcohol and put it back into the pot for one finishing run. This is the run where they make all of their cuts. It is important to note the speed of this run. Unlike the stripping run where you heat the still up hot and go quickly, the finishing run is done much cooler and slower so that the proper cuts are made. The alcohol runs through all 18 plates and comes out the other end between 190 and 191 proof or just above 95% alcohol. They then collect it and blend with filtered reverse osmosis water. RO water is completely demineralized water which is essentially the purest form of H2O. They proof the Vodka down to 80 proof (40% abv). Every bottle is hand filled, labeled, numbered at the distillery. Vegan.

Four Peel Gin
Four Peel Gin is a light, modern gin with a smooth body and a unique and aromatic blend of botanicals. Layered over the juniper note that one typically associates with gin, Watershed infuses a proprietary blend of seven other carefully selected botanicals, amongst them: Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon, and Lime peels. The Four Peel gin leads with the citrus Grapefruit notes and then finishes with some of the Allspice, Cinnamon, Coriander and Juniper. It is a modern American style gin that plays well in many cocktails or on its own.
The process: Greg and Dave take a neutral base and put it back into the still for the Four Peel Gin. There are two ways one can make gin. The first is by putting the botanicals into a gin basket and as the vapor passes through it, the gin is flavored. The second method and the one they use is the “Gin Soup Method.” With this method they put the gin botanicals directly into the pot and macerate them in the alcohol before distillation. Once the botanicals are completely soaked, they turn on the still. They only use one of their three columns for the gin as they have found this works best for consistency. 88 Proof. Vegan.

Bourbon Barrel Gin
"Bourbon and Gin are two of our favorite things. Naturally, we wondered what would result if our gin was influenced by a tasty bourbon barrel. We carefully selected old bourbon barrels and used them to age our Four Peel Gin. The result is surprising and delicious."
The process: Dave and Greg take their Four Peel Gin at slightly higher than bottling proof and place it in a once used Bourbon barrel. They age the gin for one full year and typically only blend 2 to 3 barrels at a time, proof, and bottle. The Bourbon Barrel Gin picks up some of the great barrel notes and sweetness (there is no sugar added, natural sweetness). The barrel also knocks down some of the Juniper spice for a smoother quality. 88 Proof. Vegan.

The Bourbon is made in small batches using a combination of 70% Corn, 15% Wheat, 10% Rye and 5% Spelt. It is double-distilled and aged in charred American oak barrels. Each bottle is hand numbered to represent the time and effort that is put into it. The Bourbon has a great balance of sweet and spicy characteristics that plays well for most palates.
All of the Bourbon is double distilled meaning that it goes through one stripping run and then one slow finishing run. It is taken off the still between 140 and 150 proof. Everything is barreled at between 110 and 115 proof as to not have to add much water when it is done aging. All of the Bourbon being bottled today is between 2.5 and 3 years old. Everything on the market has been aged in heavily charred 30 gallon barrels, made from the highest quality American Oak (coming from Independent Stave in Missouri). The oak is Air Dried for 18 months minimum in comparison to 12 months or less for mass marketed brands. This extra time costs more money but creates a higher quality oak that leaches more tannins from the staves resulting in a smoother, finer finish. Dave and Greg will soon (by early 2015) be switching over to all 53 gallon barrels and then everything they release will be 4 yrs old+. 94 Proof. Vegan.

Nocino is the traditional walnut liqueur made throughout Italy and Ticino (the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland). The base ingredients of Nocino have changed very little through the centuries. They include cut, unripe walnuts, alcohol (typically grappa or grain alcohol), sugar, and spices. It is the mix of spices that can vary widely from family-to-family and village-to-village that gives each Nocino its unique character.
Dave Rigo and Greg Lehman know more about black walnuts than they ever thought they would. Thatʼs because the Watershed Distillery owners spent the summer researching and then crafting their first liqueur—a black-walnut infusion called Nocino. The two were inspired to craft this new product after an Upper Arlington physician brought them a bottle of his blackwalnut liqueur made from an old family recipe. One taste (and a bit of the doctorʼs nocino over a bowl of Jeniʼs ice cream), and the distillers knew they had to recreate it. That was the tricky part, as walnuts must be harvested while unripe and green within two weeks in June and July, Rigo says. Two farms in Marysville supplied 700 pounds of black walnuts, which the Watershed team broke open by hand. (“Itʼs like cracking a coconut open, with the milk running out,” Lehman says.) The walnuts were macerated in sugar and then aged with Watershed vodka for three months to make 2,500 bottles of limited-release Nocino (375mL bottles). The dark brown liqueur is like a cross between a bitter Italian amaro and a nutty ice wine. It has a heavy body, but itʼs not too syrupy. And itʼs sweet with hints of vanilla bean and cinnamon but wouldnʼt pass as dessert (though it would pair well with a sugary bite at the end of a meal).
Nocino is a welcome addition to a number of cocktails. Just a dash can do wonders in egg nog, an Old Fashioned, a Boulevardier, or even a rum punch. It has a natural affinity for aged spirits, such as bourbon and rye, and a quarter-ounce added to a Manhattan is a great place to start.

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