Middle West Spirits, a micro-distillery located in Columbus’s Short North, has been turning out its Oyo brand artisan spirits since April 2010, thanks to two transplanted entrepreneurs who recognized value in Ohio’s plentiful wheat crops.
Brady Konya, one of these entrepreneurs, is a former marketing executive from Seattle. Ryan Lang, the other owner, comes from Appalachian Pennsylvania and four generations of distillers – “some of them legal, some not,” says Konya.
Oyo vodkas (traditional, honey-flavored and a new stone-fruit variety) and whiskey are specifically handcrafted to showcase the unique flavor of the state’s wheat.
“We use only wheat that’s harvested from an 80-mile radius around Fostoria,” says Konya. The careful selection gives Middle West spirits the cachet of terroir – a sense of the distinctive region from which the wheat originates.
“The taste is one that doesn’t exist elsewhere in any other product,” says Konya. “The flavor is unique to Ohio.”
Proof is in the tasting, of course, and the best way to sample Middle West products is to take one of the weekly, 90-minute tours that begin with a comprehensive education on the history of distilling in Ohio and the production process itself — from grain to bottle.
A tour of the facility features the one-of-a-kind, built-to-specification copper still that processes the grain more quickly and efficiently than most working stills today. The tour ends with a taste of the distillery’s three spirits – along with a sample of a well-known premium vodka “for comparison purposes,” says Konya.
For those curious about the brand name, Oyo is an Iroquois word meaning “Great River” – presumably “where the Ohio River gets its name,” says Konya.
Middle West Spirits products can be found in state stores in Ohio and other states – and online. For more information or to order, visit www.middlewestspirits.com