You may know that a few big brands (The Limited and Abercrombie & Fitch) call Columbus, Ohio home, but more recently small-batch operations (Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream and Homage) have been helping get the Midwest some of the recognition it deserves. A new creatively-minded business, Middle West Spirits, is the latest to join the movement. Ohio's first and only grain-to-bottle micro-distillery, the upstart brews their distinctly smooth Oyo vodkas and whiskey from soft red winter wheat that's sourced locally.
Founders Brady Konya and Ryan Lang imported a 600-liter copper and stainless steel distillation system from Germany, which German master-craftsmen (in the business for over 200 years) came on-site to build in the 3,200-square-foot facility (a former taxi cab center).
Lang comes from a long line of distillers (his grandparents were even bootleggers) and uses that family history to marry cutting-edge technology to traditional techniques. Also a nod to the past, the name—pronounced Oh-Why-Oh—was the old-world name given to the Ohio River Valley by the Native Americans settled there, which means "beautiful river."
We recently tried the three varieties on tap at Middle West Spirits—Oyo whiskey, vodka and a honey vanilla bean vodka, which infuses local wildflower honey and fair-trade vanilla beans from Uganda. All three are super pleasant on the palate, perfect for sipping or pouring over ice cream. Popping open the wax-sealed top immediately reveals an enticingly robust aroma begging for play.
With their hands in Columbus' community arts scene and a host of liquors that embody a farm-fresh mentality, Middle West Spirits is a great example of the power of independent production and future Ohio endeavors. Each bottle is hand-numbered and sells for around $35.