Cleveland, Ohio – The middle child of the Rust Belt, home of Rock and Roll, and the location of what will always be known as Jacob’s Field, or “The Jake”, is now home to its very own whiskey company. There is a current boom in the whisk(e)y world as distilleries and companies alike continue to pop up across the globe. There’s simply a lot of demand out there as whisk(e)y continues to grow in popularity.
Founded by Tom Lix, a former Marketing Executive here in Boston and student at Boston University, Cleveland Whiskey is not a craft distillery but more so an independent bottler with their own form of further maturation. Produced in a 3,000 square foot facility, the company currently sources their whiskey from an unknown distillery with a mash bill made up of 51% corn and an undisclosed portion of rye, wheat, and barley. Once received, Lix and his team put the whiskey through a patent-pending aging process that is made up of loose, cut staves from their own barrels and a large pressure vacuum. The already 6 month old whiskey is aged this way for 6 days to create what Lix describes as the equivalent of 10 to 12 year old bourbon. Lix even states, “it makes for a fuller body, better tasting whiskey”.
Cleveland Whiskey has begun their own distilling, but on a very small scale with small scale equipment. However, they are looking to expand into a larger facility.
The rapid “aging” process manipulates temperature and pressure and squeezes the wood like a sponge, forcing the young whiskey through the barrel segments stored inside Lix’s top secret pressure chamber. The result – an almost black in color bourbon known as, you guessed it, Cleveland Whiskey Black Bourbon. There is no color added and it is bottled at 50% (100 proof). At least they’re bottling it at a high ABV. Oh, and non chill-filtered I believe.
Cleveland Whiskey is no doubt turning some industry heads and causing a bit of an uproar with their new innovative aging styles. The question is, is this true innovation or is it just one man’s attempt at trying to dip his hand in the river of increased demand that is the current whiskey industry? Lix is quoted as saying, “whiskey is booming, with all forms of it generating $25 billion in sales last year. The Russians are drinking more, the Chinese are drinking more and consumption of imported whiskies rose 38 percent in India last year”.
It is difficult for new companies to begin earning revenues and profit due to the time it takes for maturation. Lix’s process is essentially bypassing the normal maturation process by using his rapid extraction techniques. Is this cheating the system, though? Not according to Lix who states his process is just as good. Sometimes fighting tradition is difficult, any Scottish distillery who has gone up against the Scotch Whisky Association can tell you that. It’s not only about tradition, though, it’s about what’s not taking place; the actual involvement and interaction between wood and spirit over time.
The whiskey itself is selling out, and selling out fast. The people of Northern Ohio are very passionate and supportive of their local companies, especially when it comes to alcohol. Just ask the Great Lakes Brewing Company, creators of some very tasty brew. Ohioans are so passionate about this new American spirit that stores can’t keep it on the shelves. “Every time it comes in, it immediately sells out”, a NE Ohio wine & spirits business says.
Currently, Cleveland Whiskey can only distribute throughout Ohio, but luckily for me I have a great deal of family out that way. A bottle for tasting and review will be coming soon, and at that time I’ll fill you in on whether or not this unique ‘aging’ style actually does what Lix says it does – We shall see.
What are your thoughts?