Middle West Spirits: Oyo Whiskey

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Beware: The business that brought the micro-distillery movement to Columbus is conjuring up a strong, dark spirit.

At the end of the month, Middle West Spirits will announce the release of Oyo Whiskey, an amber-colored alcohol that clocks in at 92 proof.

"You want to do something distinctive and unique," co-founder Brady Konya said last week during a private tasting. "We want to do something that we do well and that Ohio does well."

Once it's released, drinkers will be able to grab 750-milliliter bottles for $45.25 at area liquor stores or at the distillery. Currently, the whiskey's available only in Corn Syrup Custard with Whiskey & Pecans, a new flavor from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.

Adding to the spirit's intrigue, the small-batch, single-cask hooch is produced solely from soft red winter wheat sourced in Ohio, the same ingredient that powers Middle West's flagship vodka. The most common whiskeys are made from corn (bourbon), malted barley (Scotch) or a multi-grain blend (Canadian whisky).

"We don't want to do a bourbon," Konya said. "We feel like the wheat-whiskey category will remain small, and we're fine with that, because we can have a big voice."

Non-traditional whiskeys have flowed in higher volumes during the past decade. Most recently, rye has been revived by mixologists.

"We don't make spirits for everyone," Konya said. "We make spirits we love."

Still, Oyo Whiskey has a likable flavor: honey aromas, tastes of cinnamon and slight spice, subdued bite and a surprisingly quick finish. During a private tasting, it was a hit among several who admitted to not really liking whiskey.

Oyo is many years younger than popular small-batch labels like Basil Hayden's, Knob Creek and Woodford Reserve. Yet it has mellowed in five- or 32-gallon barrels, which allows its character to change faster than competitors aged in larger quantities, Konya explained.

"We're at the beginning of developing a significant reserve," he said.

Middle West Spirits

1230 Courtland Ave., Short North