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Western Reserve Distillery focuses on quality

Published: Wed, January 23, 2019 @ 12:05 a.m.

Liquor of Lakewood

By Brian Fry


The spirits world has been on fire over the past decade. A constant stream of new product offerings and an explosion of sales have led to a lot of expansion in the industry. Spirits drinkers have been overwhelmed by advertising from the large companies that control most of the spirits market.

Recently, the spirits consumer began to look for smaller production — local or regional distilleries that focus on quality versus mass production. This trend has already taken place in the craft beer world, and it continues to grow to this day. Wine lovers often seek out the smaller, boutique wineries that cater to quality over mass production.

Kevin Thomas, who founded Western Reserve Distillery with his wife after spending nearly three decades as an executive with the Nestle Corp., sees a growing demand for specially crafted products, especially if they carry the organic certification.

“The return of the craft cocktail has led to big growth in the spirits market. The whiskey and bourbon category has been on a consistent growth trajectory over several years now. Bourbon is the largest seller in our portfolio, and we see room for lots more growth.”

Western Reserve’s bourbons are currently only available for purchase at the distillery in Lakewood, an impressive, ultra modern facility with a bar and restaurant attached. The bourbons will be available at Ohio state liquor agencies soon though. Western Reserve’s Organic Vodka and Gin can currently be found in stores around our Valley. A premium barrel aged rum will be available in stores soon.

“We are the only certified organic distillery in Ohio. We use only Ohio based ingredients and purchase almost everything within 50 miles of our distillery (the only exception being the molasses for the rum). We have a strong commitment to our local and regional community and that’s reflected in the way we purchase the things we need to produce our spirits.”

Thomas came to northeast Ohio in 2007 when he returned from Switzerland to lead Nestle’s product innovation division focused on food service to restaurants. It was during this time period that he saw the emergence of the craft-cocktail movement and began developing his plan to launch Western Reserve.

“We saw a real opportunity to create something special, something locally based that we could build in our community and that people in our region could enjoy and be proud of.”

Here’s a look at Western Reserve Distillery’s current product offerings available in stores:

Organic Vodka

Price: $18.99, currently available at state liquor agencies.

Handcrafted in single batches using only the highest quality, 100 percent organic, non-GMO, pesticide free corn. The 100 percent organic corn produces a slightly sweeter taste with a clean, crisp, mild finish.

Organic Gin

Price: $20.99, currently available at state liquor agencies.

Made from 100 percent locally sourced organic corn and fermented and distilled in the same manner as the vodka. After filtration, the spirit is given a few days to rest before the botanicals are slowly infused, bringing the gin to life.

Spirits currently available at Western Reserve’s Lakewood distillery:

Organic Bourbon

Made of 51 percent organic corn and 49 percent organic millet. After a distillation of 24 plates and three condensers, they take the “hearts” portion and place it into unused, No. 3 charred American oak barrels. When it has aged to perfection, smooth Bourbon emerges that starts with a flavor of vanilla and just a hint of fruit yet finishes with a peppery caramel flavor that lingers ever so lightly on your tongue.

Premium Rye Whiskey

This 100 percent organic rye whiskey has been a labor of love. Kevin Thomas was determined to make a rye whiskey that his wife, and fellow co-founder, would enjoy. He succeeded. Western Reserve Rye has a beautiful caramel color with a light flavor that starts off sweet and leaves you with a “kiss” of spice at the end.

If you are a spirits enthusiast, a trip to Western Reserve Distillery will make a fun and interesting day trip. Safe travels.

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