Central Ohio may soon be awash in microdistilleries. Last year BizBuzz toasted the launch of Middle West Spirits ("Bottoms Up!" September 2010). Also in the game is Grandview Heights-based Watershed Distillery, founded by Greg Lehman and a silent partner. Already pumping out gin and vodka, Watershed's working on the first Ohio-distilled bourbon since Prohibition.
A 2001 Ohio State University biz grad, Lehman spent a couple of years playing pro volleyball in Switzerland, where he became a hardcore locavore. "They did everything local--local cheese, local beer, local wine and soda," he says.
Back in Ohio, Lehman found a paucity of local booze: "I started asking, ‘What local flavors can we bring to Central Ohio?' "
With support from private investors, Watershed set up shop in February 2010. By December, its gin and vodka, both made from Midwest corn, were on the market.
"We've got a modern take on gin," Lehman says. "It has that juniper note, and then we come in with this great balance of citrus peel that gives it this great orange peel, grapefruit peel finish. It's got a great fresh smell."
Lehman compares Watershed's vodka to top-shelf tipples such as Grey Goose, Tito's and Belvedere. The gin retails for $27.90 per 750 mL bottle; vodka is $24.60.
You'll have to wait until 2013 to sip Watershed's bourbon. "Bourbons tend to improve with age, so we are attempting to give our bourbon two years' of aging [in charred oak barrels] before we bottle," Lehman says.
Reprinted from the March 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.