Preview: Watershed Bourbon

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From the November 1, 2012 edition

With much anticipation Watershed Distillery releases their bourbon Thursday, adding to a lineup that includes a vodka and two gins (one a bourbon barrel-aged variety). It’s the first Columbus-produced bourbon to hit the market. Middle West Spirits will release OYO Bourbon later in November.

Watershed began distilling and barreling the bourbon two years ago using some non-traditional techniques. It creates something perceptibly unique, but also capable of satisfying our city’s bourbon drinkers. The recipe uses a high percentage of corn — the federal standard is a mixture of grains with at least 51 percent corn; Watershed uses 60 percent — along with wheat, rye and spelt.

Each bottle is a mixture of two bourbons aged for two-years in 10 and 30 gallon barrels. Most mass-produced bourbons are aged in 53-gallon barrels. Using smaller barrels helps quicken the aging process by having a smaller surface area. But that doesn’t mean Watershed didn’t wait until the bourbon was optimal for drinking.

“We made a conscious effort to wait until it was ready. We wanted to make sure we had the bourbon flavors, and have something Columbus will be proud of,” said Watershed co-founder Dave Rigo.

The higher percentage of corn gives the bourbon an immediately noticeable aroma that also jumps out on the palette. It quickly fades as the traditional bourbon notes come through, resulting in a smooth, slightly sweet spirit with subtle oak notes. It creates a perfectly sippable bourbon that also works well in cocktails. The Old Fashioned I concocted was quite pleasing.

Currently Watershed is producing six to eight 53-gallon barrels of bourbon a month. The distillery plans to hold some barrels for longer aging — three to four years — and some possibly longer.

“It’s a waiting game, a patience thing. We’re happy to have the patience,” said Rigo.

Well, no longer will Columbus be waiting to sample the city’s first local bourbon. Cases are being delivered to Huffman’s Market, Weiland’s Gourmet Market and the Giant Eagle in Dublin today.