New Carlisle’s Indian Creek Distillery, specializing in early-American spirits, is featured in the November edition of Wine Spectator Magazine, a national publication that covers notable American spirits and the companies that produce them. In this month’s issue, writer Lew Bryson interviewed several local distilleries across the country known for their unique production process and adherence to small batches.
Indian Creek Distillery, located in the Miami County portion of New Carlisle, produces the same rye whiskey it made in the early 1800s, using the same original recipe and the same stills, which were smartly hidden away by a family patriarch at the onset of Prohibition.
Missy Duer, whose great-great-great grandfather Elias Staley bought the farm in 1818, revived the family business in 2012 after their liquor production stopped during Prohibition. She said the family craft sat dormant for two generations until she and her husband Joe dusted off the old stills and resumed production in December of 2012. Joe and Missy, along with Bruce Smith, produce their whiskey twice per month, making about 3,000 bottles per year.
Duer said it was significant to acknowledge her great-grandfather George’s actions in hiding the stills away in the barn during Prohibition, as well as his ability to keep the stills throughout some of the country’s darkest times.
“During the 30s, the Great Depression, he never sold the stills,” Duer said, adding that she was proud to carry on the family tradition using their original materials.
“I feel like we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing—carrying on our lineage and tradition—and I think that by doing this, they’d probably be pretty proud,” she said of her ancestors.
Duer said that Staley Rye Whiskey was originally created from the waters of Indian Creek that runs through the family farm on Staley Road. Due to the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the Staleys switched to pumping water from plentiful springs on the farm instead of carting the water in by the bucketful.
Her great-great-grandfather Simon Staley’s original recipe for the family’s rye whiskey still hangs in the distillery, forged in Simon’s own handwriting, and remarkably preserved for being nearly 200 years-old. The original sketches of the first distillery building also grace the walls of the rustic-looking barn, which was built in 2010 by an Amish build team out of Wooster who made sure the structure closely resembled the other historic buildings on the property, including the 1818 gristmill (Ohio’s oldest) and the mash house.
Wine Spectator Magazine featured Indian Creek Distillery for its unique production process—as not many producers use 200 year-old stills, let alone a time-honored family recipe.
Duer said their whiskey production is part science and part art, as they do not rely upon computers to tell them when their batch is ready or what ingredients to add.
“It all depends on a lot of things,” she said. “The weather, the temperature, we even like to say it depends on what mood the distiller is in,” said Duer, noting that the human touch is really what makes a product that stands out from the rest in terms of quality and flavor.
Elias Staley’s Rye Whiskey was even asked for by name in 1862, when a Union soldier wrote to the family from Indiana, asking for a shipment of some of that Staley Rye that he loved so well. Duer said he was likely awaiting transport to the south, and knowing the hell that awaited him there, probably wanted a few bottles of the good stuff to take with him. The letter from that soldier still hangs in the distillery alongside the other relics.
Indian Creek Distillery ships their whiskey across all of Ohio and northern Kentucky, and plans to expand the brand to Michigan, Illinois, and New York, hoping to tap into the Chicago and New York City markets. The distillery is open year-round on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10-5, with tours given on Saturdays by appointment.
Duer said she was proud to look back on the tradition her family started 200 years ago, saying it was interesting to see the mark that each generation left on the business, starting rather primitively and evolving to meet the modern times. She said that “the old boys” sold their whiskey by the barrel or by the jug only, calling them “true pioneer distillers.”
“We’re the generation that gets to bring it to you in the bottle,” she said proudly.
Indian Creek Distillery will celebrate its third anniversary on December 5 with a Christmas Open House, which coincidentally also falls on the 82nd anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition. For more information, call the distillery at 937-846-1443.
You can view Wine Spectator Magazine here.