An Interview with Northside Distilling Co.

while Cincinnati is a growing metropolis with new ideas popping up all over, i can't help but boast when an idea is born right down the road from my apartment. anyone that lives in or around Cinci can agree that Northside has its own very unique culture and we are pretty damn proud of it to say the least. keep your fancy brands and fast talking jargin outta here! we like things uncomplicated, high quality and most of all, local.  

with those 3 keys in mind, it didn't take long for me to hear about the Northside Distilling Co. that opened up near by. the guys behind the bottle, Chris and Mike, are producing local White Whiskey and Moonshine right out of an actual barn and they're making quite a name for themselves already. I wasted no time getting ahold of them so i could get in there and say hi. (you know those brands you see being built and you just think "uhhh yeah, i should probably get in there for an interview…like… NOW!" yes, this is one of them) the kind that will be on every bar shelf one day and yours truly had a chance to shake the guy's hands, take some up close and personal photos of their establishment and got to see just how down to earth and bad ass the guys are in person. Hell, I left the interview and watched them play catch with a baseball and mit as I drove away. if that doesn't scream laid back and cool, what does? so anyway, the guys let me come down a few days ago, poke around, ask some questions and take some shots. so heeere we gooo!

this space is absolutely perfect for what you're creating. it reminds me of rabbit hash and i mean that in the best way possible. it just screams local, honest and simple whiskey. how did you find the space?

So the space and land, I would say we got lucky with. It's actually a family friend of ours. I think originally, we were thinking to ourselves "man, we can't wait until we outgrow this location!" But honestly, now, we have really grown to love it and adopt it into our brand identity. 


i'm partial to northside and love having the Northside Distillery tucked away. Do you think you guys will stay here for a while? please say yes! we want you to stay! 

It seems that way. Northside was originally just a name that was associated with the physical location that we are in. However, we have really adopted it. There is a culture here, and one that isn't so in-your-face about it either. We love it. Northside is in our name, but now also part of our Company's story. We are here to stay! 
ok, so this is probably an obvious question but i have to ask… what's the deal with white whiskey? or is it called clear whiskey? does it taste different? is it stronger? 
Oh, you mean Corn Squeeze? ;) White Whiskey, clear Whiskey, we have heard it called different things. We call it Corn Whiskey or White Whiskey. It is different, but also the same.  The Proof is similar to an aged whiskey, but the flavor is more "earthy" and corn heavy due to the fact that it hasn't been sitting in an oak barrel. We think it works best in a cocktail, however, many people are finding a new love for the "white dog" whiskey as it has a much different flavor. Me personally, I like it served straight up with an ice cube. 
after walking around in your space, you guys showed me plenty of barrels filled to the brim with whiskey. how long is the entire process, start to finish, to make 1 bottle of whiskey? 
For our White Whiskey and Moonshine, the process is 6-7 days. On a quick run down, day 1 we create a "Mash" of corn and barely (or sugar if we are making Moonshine). Day 2, we yeast the mash, thus then starting the fermentation process. After that, we let it sit another 4-5 days for the yeast to completely break down the sugars. On the last day, we run it through the Still. ---
how many bottles do you plan to produce this year? 
As many as people want. It's hard to predict right now honestly. As our demand grows, so does our production. Bigger stills, night shifts, running on the weekends. We will do whatever is needed to get Whiskey to bars and restaurants who want a local, small batch quality spirits. Currently, our trajectory is around 5-6 cases a week which equals roughly 3000-3500 bottles this year. 
you guys also sell moonshine! how did that come about? did you always want to offer both? 
Our moonshine is a product that was not originally part of the plan, but has found a really great place in our line up of products (current and future) as well as a great tasting "accident." I say accident because our moonshine is really something we started making once we realized that we had a lot of leftover corn mash from the whiskey we were making. After straining the mash of our whiskey, we realized we had a lot of left over "spent" corn. Spent meaning we have taken all of the starch out of it and fermented it. BUT, all of that corn still has a lot of flavor. We decided to make a traditional moonshine where we then used that left over corn, added some sugar to it, more water, and then re-yeasted it. So in essence, we were able to re-use our corn for a second batch. Our moonshine taste completely different than the Corn Whiskey, but again, a very tasty product. ---
i gotta be honest, what first caught my eye about your product was the packaging. it's so effortless and masculine and reminds me of an old medicine bottle. i'm obsessed with it. who came up with the packaging? do you do all of the packing here yourselves? 
Right? The branding really represents everything that is Northside Distilling. It's rugged, dirty, rock and roll, simple, and yet beautiful. All of the props for that design go to our designer and friend, Chris Dye. Working with him fairly closely, we were able to capture something that is perfect. You are really able to get another good glimpse of Chris's work on our location as well. As for packing, yep, all by hand. We sit at the table, and put the labels on the bottles by hand, bottle the bottles, cork them, box them and drive them up to the state warehouse. --
 ok be honest, if you had to choose one, do you prefer your whiskey or your moonshine?  
Depends on the day. Am I in an introspective "what does it all mean?" kind of mood? I need something John Wayne would have wanted me to drink. Pass me the Corn Whiskey, Duke. OR, am I in a "Hey! It's Friday! Friends over? Hanging out?" Pass the jug, Ill take the Moonshine. Feels more of that right now. 
i'm just curious, what's your favorite whiskey besides your own? 
If I am on the way to the liquor store right now, I'm looking for Basil Hayden's. Part of the Jim Beam family (my personal favorite of the big name Distilleries), it has a heavy use of rye, but is still an 80 proof. Not overly strong to knock you down, but just some smooth drinking. --
 you guys have to be close in order to create what you do here but sometimes it has to be hard working with friends, right? have you ever had a difference of opinion? 
Nah. I don't think so. I feel like I have been working with close friends for the last 10 years in different businesses and ventures. I think the key is having an open line of communication on how everyone is really feeling. Don't restrain on what you are thinking. So when it came to hiring someone else to help me with the day to day operations at the distillery, I looked at my friend group first. Not because I strictly only want to have fun at work (which I do), but I wanted to work with someone that I could trust and knew who had a strong character about him or her. When I brought on Mike to start helping me, in terms and understanding of the industry, a lot of people would have said, really? He doesn't even like whiskey!? But I knew what he did like, hard work. Passion about what he was doing. Something that he could help vision cast with us. I knew that about him because he was a friend first. This is borderline a Mr. Rogers Neighborhood episode, so I'll shut up now.--
 i'm sure you guys can drink it straight right out of the barrel, but do you guys have any cocktails you're hearing about that sound intriguing? 
Oh yea. I think our products tend to lean themselves into the "cocktail" world, which is how we designed them. I believe that the Rookwood in Mt. Adams, over the winter, was making a traditional Manhattan with our whiskey as the base. But if you want to see someone really put a twist on our products, head down to Japps or Neons and watch Molly Wellman put her spin on them. That is...of course, if you can't drink it straight from the barrel. 
a huge thank you to the guys for letting me come down and snag up some bottles of my own. they've made their way to the front row of my wet bar and are the envy of all my other liquor bottles!
be sure to keep an eye out for the Northside Distilling Co. in bars all over the city. you can't miss those gorgeous bottles, am i right? we're so proud when businesses like this come about and i'm thrilled to be able to support them, one drink at a time! 

 check out their site for more information HERE and if you're interested in coming down for a tour, a tasting or maybe just some down on the farm feelings in the middle of the city, they do RSVP tours and if you're interested, you can email here to book- courts@northsidedistilling.com

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