Distilled: Elias Staley rye whiskey

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
By Columbus Alive
From the March 7, 2013 edition

Indian Creek Distillery is the latest addition to the growing list of Ohio spirit makers and offers possibly the most interesting product among them, Elias Staley Rye Whiskey.

Joe and Melissa Duer opened Indian Creek in December, but its history goes back to 1820 when Elias Staley, Melissa’s fifth-great grandfather, began making double copper pot distilled rye whiskey on his farm in Miami County. Staley’s rye became popular throughout the region, but eventually shut down operation during prohibition. The Duers reopened the distillery using the original pot stills — the oldest operating stills in the country according to Joe — mash bill recipe and water source Staley did centuries ago.

The Elias Staley rye is an un-aged whiskey — called a “white whiskey” because it doesn’t have the auburn brown color caused by barrel-aging — so it’s quite different than offerings from Bulleit or Wild Turkey. The distilling process is comparable to moonshine, but the result isn’t even close. The Elias Staley rye is one of the smoothest whiskeys I’ve ever sampled and has an indescribably original, yet pleasant flavor.

Joe attributes the taste and smoothness to the nearly 200-year-old recipe the Duers identically recreated. The mash bill is 60 percent rye, 25 percent corn and 15 percent malted barley, but there’s also a special ingredient.

“We also toss in a third of a pound of hops,” said Melissa.

Hops were used in the original recipe because they didn’t have the distilling technology we do today. It was a trick Joe says they learned from beer makers.

“We hop the mash because the old-timers did that to control bacteria in whiskey … as an unintended consequence they found out it affected the taste,” said Joe.

The hops do add a distinct and extraordinary flavor, but don’t expect something like a hoppy IPA. It’s more of a slightly earthy effect that plays well with the sweeter corn and rye aspects. The taste is quite appealing, but I was most blown away by the smooth in this booze.