451's Chief Distiller loves small-batch spirits, fermentation and more

Local distillery 451 Spirits reached yet another milestone with the recent launch of its public tasting room and workshops. Focused on extremely small batch, pot-still spirits, the distiller has plans to release three new spirits in the coming months, along with even more limited-release products that will only be available in the tasting room. Here, Chief Distiller and Co-Founder Chad Kessler tells us a little about what makes him tick, and the things that inspire 451's esoteric spirits.

Truly artisanal, small-batch products

In the world of bourbon, which I love, “small batch” can mean as many as a couple hundred barrels. The spirits that really get me excited are the ones produced in really small batches — micro, even. I've had mezcal from the hills of Oaxaca that was never meant to leave the small village it came from. I've had some amazing rums from small distilleries all over the Caribbean that had layers of complexity you never find in spirits made from large producers. The quirks resulting from changes in production of these spirits are far more exciting than the consistency of commercial products.


Congeners are the byproducts of fermentation that don't get enough credit. While yeast is transforming sugar into alcohol, it also produces a range of esters, fusel oils and other chemical compounds that bind with the ethanol to create most of the actual flavor of a distilled spirit. In my opinion, not enough distilleries encourage the production of these. Our pot still was designed to retain as many of these compounds as possible, which we work to develop during fermentation.

The growth of Columbus libations

The brewing scene here is still growing, and now the spirits industry is looking to catch up. The great thing I've experienced is that, even though we're all technically competitors, we don't treat one another as such. It's always been easy to reach out to other distilleries and brewers with questions and to talk shop. We may have different opinions on what we make, but we're all in this together.

Spreading the “spiritual” gospel

I love educating people about the history and production of different spirits. I'm a total nerd when I get into something and try to learn as much as I can about it. My five years working in the Weiland's Market spirits department, combined with all my distilling experience, means I can take you pretty far down the rabbit hole. Luckily, we're now offering workshop-style tours so I can share that knowledge with you.

New experiences

What's next? I'm always looking for something new, and I'm rarely content to stay the course. Whether it's seeking out a new restaurant or taco truck, checking out a new skatepark a couple of hours away or just seeing what's around the next bend while wading in a river, I'm always trying to go just a little further and see what's next.