Founded in a barn north of Cincinnati by husband-and-wife owners Don and Linda Outterson in 1999, Woodstone Creek is a true boutique endeavor.
They only produce about 100 cases of wine and three to five barrels of distilled spirit a year — or, as a quote on their website says, “less than the big guys spill on the floor.” And on top of the rarity of their product, all Woodstone spirits are handmade and bottled by Linda and Don without automated equipment, a bottling line, computers or employees — and all in their spare time.
As a certified brewmaster, mead mazer, master distiller and winemaker, the art of fermentation is Don’s passion; he even changed state law with Woodstone in 1999 to originate Ohio’s microdistillery license, paving the way for future distilleries. And this passion has resulted in a large selection of Woodstone wines and mead and an impressive collection of quality spirits.
Woodstone’s current spirit portfolio includes a premium dry gin, 80- and 100-proof vodka, a seven-year Barrelhouse Red Legg bierschnaps (a distilled beer) and a slew of whiskeys including a five-grain single-barrel straight bourbon whiskey, a Ridge Runner five-grain unaged whiskey, a peated single-malt whiskey (which the author of the Whisky Bible called “brilliant”) and a 13-year single-malt whiskey aged in a sherry cask, which is next available in about five years because, as Linda puts it, the longer you age whiskey, the less you get — “a wonderful tragedy of physics.” A five-year-old barrel can yield 200-230 bottles, while their last 13-year-old whiskey only yielded 133 bottles from two barrels.
Prices per bottle at retailers like the Party Source range anywhere from $30 for 375ML of Ridge Runner to $70 for 750ML of the single-barrel bourbon, which is currently out of stock. But the scarcity and individuality of their product is a boon for customers as it comes as a result of their dedication to artisanship and aging.
“Don distills in the traditional way of his ancestors,” Linda says, referring to Don’s Scottish heritage.
And like the Scots, Don prefers to use a pot still, which concentrates flavor by applying heat directly to the pot containing the spirit.
“Don’s pot still, which he designed from scrap metal parts, makes single batches,” Linda says. “It’s an antiquated method that’s pretty time consuming. But the equipment is simple and cheap — very similar to moonshiner stills. It requires more skill, however, because much is determined by the distiller.”
Don uses traditional aging techniques, no chill filtering, no color additives and minimal dilution, all of which were previously readily on view at Woodstone’s former distilling location inside of Evanston’s Listermann Brewing Company.
Housed in a 1,700-square-foot portion of the repurposed industrial stamping factory, Woodstone opened their tasting room in 2002, where patrons could enjoy a sampling of the fruits of Woodstone’s labor in the factory president’s former office — hand-poured by Linda — and then take a tour of the barrels maturing in the hallway outside.
But recent circumstances led the Outtersons on a frantic search for new distillery digs. After a false start in West Chester, Don thought he might have to go out of business, Linda says. “But he knew the whiskey would have to be destroyed (according to federal law). After all he went through to get so far — it broke his heart.”
Don started contacting local community development committees and stumbled upon St. Bernard, which is attempting a neighborhood renaissance. “Don bought an old bank on Vine Street in the heart of St. Bernard’s redevelopment district. It’s a good, solid brick building with cement floors — an excellent place for a microdistillery.”
St. Bernard even reconfigured some of its redevelopment plans around the new tenants. “It was good to feel welcome but, moreover, St. Bernard saved Woodstone Creek,” Linda says.
With the help of friends, Don moved the entire distillery in rental trucks and his own pick-up from Evanston to St. Bernard. And while they moved into Listermann with four barrels, they moved into Vine Street with 50.
“The reconfigured distillery will now have an unheated space to age barrels so as to mimic the temperature range of conventional distilleries,” Linda says. “The old location was earth-bermed with a seasonal difference of 10 degrees. It took longer to age the spirits, with more loss to the angels (evaporation). Don’s excited to see how much the new location will change his production. He speculates aging will be accelerated. Some process changes will be required, but he’s prepared for that.”
And while the Outtersons finish rehabbing their building, they’ve decided to close the tasting room to devote time to the bigger picture. Linda says it could be spring before it reopens, but she says it will eventually and that Woodstone Creek products will still be available at retailers and in production.
“I want to assure our fans Woodstone Creek is not quitting,” Linda says. “Don wants to share his whiskey — he simply cannot do otherwise.”
For updates on Woodstone Creek’s progress, visit woodstonecreek.com.