Rumpundit

31 Jul

American Recipe 1776 Rum

Whiskey without a headache’ gets new life

By David Holthaus • dholthaus@enquirer.com • July 30, 2009

–>In the back of an old pizza parlor in rural Clinton County, Rob McCulloch is trying to revive the family business of making spirits.

Underneath a menu board advertising steak hoagies, an 80-gallon pot still cooks away, distilling grains and sugar into vodka.

Making spirits has long been part of McCulloch’s life, starting with his great-grandfather, who began making whiskey in 1885 in Owensboro, Ky. The McCulloch distillery produced an award-winning whiskey, Green River, which was advertised as “the whiskey without a headache.” It also produced, long before the soft drink of the same name, a variety of vodka called “Mountain Dew.”

A 1918 distillery fire, followed by Prohibition, killed the McCulloch spirit-making business. The distillery in Owensboro survived, but changed hands, becoming known as the Charles Medley distillery. In 2007, it was bought by Trinidad’s Angostura, which is renovating it for bourbon production.

After McCulloch’s father, who worked at spirits giant Brown-Forman, died in 2001, McCulloch began thinking about reviving the family business.

Five years ago, he set about getting the proper federal and state permits and building the equipment and today is making vodka, rum and whiskey in small quantities, with plans for more.

He handles the distilling, bottling and labeling of American Recipe 1776 Rum and American Vodka. He has shipped whiskey to a company in Michigan that uses it for blending and he has several barrels full of aging whiskey.

McCulloch, who owns an industrial tool supplier in Morrow, has spent about $100,000 so far, with profits nowhere in sight. But his products are available at Kroger stores and Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield and he’s scouting a location in Florida to make rum.

He just agreed to a distributing arrangement with The Liquor Group, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based company that operates in 31states, often with new distillers.

“I can’t say we’ve made any money on it yet,” McCulloch said. “It’s sort of a hobby.”

That’s not unusual for new distillers, said Bill Owens, president of the American Distilling Institute. “Be prepared to lose money for three to five years,” Owens advises.

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Simply getting the permits and then the formulation right takes time. Home distilling of liquor is illegal; at a minimum, federal and state permits are required. Distributing and selling the product can be difficult for a microdistiller. In Ohio, it’s complicated by liquor laws that require all spirits to be sold to the state, which then distributes them to state-approved outlets.

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Bourbon makers must age their products at least two years, and often much longer. “There’s such a huge learning curve,” Owens said.

McCulloch’s effort comes as tastes for craft spirits continues to grow and consumers seek products with local flair.

“It’s part of that new renaissance in food and drink,” Owens said.

Back in the day, Green River produced a lot of marketing materials common to the time, such as a clock with a whiskey bottle containing the watch face, plates and watch fobs. Many can now be found on eBay and other online auction sites. McCulloch’s father left him Green River memorabilia such as logos and posters, reminders of the old times.

There are only two established small distilleries in Ohio, according to Owens. One is Woodstone Creek, which makes small-batch spirits in Cincinnati’s Evanston neighborhood. The other, Tom’s Foolery, is in the Cleveland area.

Begun in 1999, Woodstone now sells its products in six states and produces a high-end bourbon that sells for about $100 a bottle. It’s available in Kentucky and in its Evanston retail store.

Is it profitable? “Not really,” said owner Don Outterson.
Simply getting the permits and then the formulation right takes time. Home distilling of liquor is illegal; at a minimum, federal and state permits are required. Distributing and selling the product can be difficult for a microdistiller. In Ohio, it’s complicated by liquor laws that require all spirits to be sold to the state, which then distributes them to state-approved outlets.

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Bourbon makers must age their products at least two years, and often much longer. “There’s such a huge learning curve,” Owens said.

McCulloch’s effort comes as tastes for craft spirits continues to grow and consumers seek products with local flair.

“It’s part of that new renaissance in food and drink,” Owens said.

Back in the day, Green River produced a lot of marketing materials common to the time, such as a clock with a whiskey bottle containing the watch face, plates and watch fobs. Many can now be found on eBay and other online auction sites. McCulloch’s father left him Green River memorabilia such as logos and posters, reminders of the old times.

There are only two established small distilleries in Ohio, according to Owens. One is Woodstone Creek, which makes small-batch spirits in Cincinnati’s Evanston neighborhood. The other, Tom’s Foolery, is in the Cleveland area.

Begun in 1999, Woodstone now sells its products in six states and produces a high-end bourbon that sells for about $100 a bottle. It’s available in Kentucky and in its Evanston retail store.

Is it profitable? “Not really,” said owner Don Outterson.

7 Responses to “American Recipe 1776 Rum”

  1. 1
    classy drink glasses Says:

    Great post – thanks for sharing!

  2. 2
    Janusch Says:

    I want to know more about the distiller right here in Cincinnati. Why does a guy who’s not from around here rate this much space in the Enquirer? YOu guys not into promoting LOCAL business?

  3. 3
    Ads of the week: Barefoot girl dancing in the moonlight — A Dash of Bitters Says:

    […] distillery that made Green River is again operational. Angostura purchased it for bourbon production, but I’m not exactly sure what […]

  4. 4
    Green River Whiskey – Vintage Advertisement « Dedicated Spirits Says:

    […]  Owensboro is just about an hour from the city I grew up in, Evansville, Indiana.  According to this article, the craft whiskey movement in the United States has renewed interest in both the Green River […]

  5. 5
    Kathleen McCulloch Bosse Says:

    The name “Green River” was not available for use because the rights were already purchased. Rob is distilling under the name “John McCulloch Distillery”, it was our great grandfather’s name, our father’s name and is Rob’s legal name. The family history has EVERYTHING to do with his distilling interest and his strong belief in family. His web site was a project under taken with his youngest son, Brian, who is now 10. As far as LOCAL is concered, Rob was born, raised and lives in Cincinnati (when he is in town), his BUSINESSES operate out of Morrow and Martinsville. I hope this clears up the misconceptions posted.

  6. 6
    Steffi Says:

    Guter Artikel. Gebookmarked .

  7. 7
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