Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Timeless Dram

Photo by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group
Age is the defining characteristic of quality scotch and bourbon. At least it has been until serial entrepreneur and marketing genius Tom Lix came up with a patent pending process that transforms the making of brown spirits. It truly creates the taste and smoothness of age without the time. He can produce a bottle in under a week that can compare to a 10 or 12 year old version.  I wouldn't have believed it was possible if I hadn't visited his downtown distillery and tried his Cleveland Whiskey for myself.

Photo by Barney Taxel
It's dark in the bottle, a gorgeous honey-amber hue in a glass. The aroma was rich and complex. It had none of the bite or harsh alcoholic "heat" - though it is 100 proof- that usually comes with young  (and therefore inexpensive) whiskey. The mouthfeel is round and silky. An added splash of water smooths it out even more. This is comparable to a very fine high end bourbon. And it will sell for a fraction of the price.

This hometown product is a kind of miracle. Certainly something revolutionary and new. Lix calls it "a disruptive technology and a game changer." I call it amazing. And the timing couldn't be better. Whiskey is trendy. The demand for brown spirits is high and growing, and manufacturers can't keep up.

 The production facility is housed in a start-up incubator run by MAGNET (Manufacturing and Advocacy Growth Network) on East 25th Street, near Cleveland State University. I can smell his space before I see it- there's a yeasty smell from the grain fermenting in the mash cooker. Lix makes some of his base spirit, essentially "white lightening" or legal "moonshine" himself.  The still is a polished gleaming copper column and network of pipes. The liquid that comes out of it normally goes into a barrel. But not here and exactly what next is secret. Lix is willing to tell me, and other reporters he's talked to, about it but nobody is allowed to see the actual machinery. I can hear it humming behind a curtained wall. It reminds me of that scene in the movie when Dorothy and friends get their first audience with the Wizard of Oz. 

Photo by Barney Taxel
Lix holds up a used and charred barrel stave and explains how his trademarked pressure aging technology aggressively pushes the alcohol in and out of pores of the wood, speeding up what normally occurs during years in a cask. Since his focus is aging, and his ability to produce base spirit limited, Lix is also buying rough six month old bourbon and running it through his system to produce Cleveland Whiskey. The day I visited he had  6000 bottles are waiting to be filled.

After a long wait, he got final approval of his labels and is official listed with the State of Ohio Liquor Commission. Cleveland Whiskey should be in local bars and restaurants and in retail stores before St. Patrick's Day. Look on the website for more info on where to find it. It's adds another and most welcome way to buy local.

1 comment:

ADV Ridier said...

Can't wait to try some of this.
Cleveland in a bottle.
Great work gentlemen.