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Cleveland Whiskey: Urban Distilleries

by SarahRouth January - last edited January

There’s the traditional way to make bourbon and then there’s the Cleveland way.

 

The traditional way (and that’s traditional as in centuries-old) goes something like this: ferment, distil and place in a charred, American oak barrel. And wait, and wait, and wait – anywhere from two to 12 or more years.

 

Cleveland Whiskey | Urban Distilleries

Cleveland is home to a very unusual method of whiskey distilling © Robert Daveant/iStock/Thinkstock
 

The Cleveland way speeds things up, more than a little. Instead of waiting for years, the folks at Cleveland Whiskey move their bourbon from barrel to bottle in about a week.

 

Cleveland Whiskey | Urban Distilleries

Cleveland Whiskey's bourbon is made in a matter of days © Cleveland Whiskey
 

Tom Lix, founder of Cleveland Whiskey, doesn’t like to get too technical about the process but it involves aging the spirits under extremely high pressure, in a stainless steel vat with pieces of barrel thrown in. But he’s happy to talk about the result – genuine, 100-proof bourbon that stands up to the premium (and traditionally aged) bourbons. In a series of blind taste tests called the Cleveland Challenge, real people have been picking the Cleveland stuff over Knob Creek (a well-known and well-loved bourbon that packs the same punch) more than half the time. Not bad for a bourbon made in days instead of years.

 

Clevelanders agree. The urban distillery consistently sells out of its weekly 3,000-bottle run. Bottles, which retail for $35, can be hard to come by, so we asked Lix to recommend a few spots to sip Cleveland Whiskey.

 

Whiskey Challenge | Cleveland Whiskey | Urban Distilleries

The Cleveland Challenge pits Cleveland Whiskey against Knob Creek bourbon © Cleveland Whiskey
 

The Market Garden Brewery, a beer garden in the Ohio City neighbourhood, mixes several Cleveland Whiskey twists on traditional cocktails like the Sugar Plum Fairy, a Christmas Bourbon Manhattan with plum preserves. In nearby Tremont, Cleveland’s original hipster neighbourhood, Press Wine Bar serves wine on tap and Cleveland Whiskey too. There’s a fistful of Winking Lizard Taverns in the city, all stocked with Cleveland Whiskey (try one of three the Lizardville locations for a souvenir bottle). And, if you’ve left it to the last minute, you get a taste at the Great Lakes Brewing Company in the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

 

Cleveland Whiskey | Urban Distilleries

There are a number of bars in the city where visitors can sample Cleveland Whiskey © Alexey Lysenko/iStock/Thinkstock
 

If you’d rather sip your bourbon where it’s born, book a Cleveland Whiskey tour. The distillery will open its facilities to the public in November 2013 – at an open house honouring its Christmas Bourbon. Regular tours will be available beginning in early 2014.

 

Cleveland Whiskey | Urban Distilleries

Visitors can also sample the spirit on a Cleveland Whiskey distillery tour © puchkovo48/iStock/Thinkstock
 

Finally, we asked Lix about the name – sure the whiskey is made here (in a downtown manufacturing incubator), but what’s so “Cleveland” about it? “People [say] the name for them [means] something that’s authentic and genuine, hardworking and entrepreneurial and- last but not least, edgy. We say that Cleveland is an attitude, not just a geography,” says Lix.

 

That sounds about right.

 

Written by Sarah Routh

 

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Have you tried Cleveland Whiskey? Where’s your favourite place to sip Bourbon in the city? Share your thoughts with us below.


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About the author: SarahRouth

Sarah Routh

Sarah Routh writes about food, travel, and entertainment. She’s written a cookbook, a children’s book and more restaurant reviews than she can count. Sarah grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and although her sixteen-year-old self would never believe it, she’s thrilled to be raising her three children there. When she’s not writing, eating, or shuffling children around, she’s busy exploring her hometown.