COLUMBUS, OHIO - Before prohibition, Ohio was home to dozens of distilleries producing unique flavors specific to the region. Watershed Distillery is helping to revitalize this forgotten craft and make it relevant for a new generation by committing to small-batch artisan quality spirits. In 2007, founder and head-distiller Greg Lehman began work on what would become the newest addition to the very long history of micro-distilling in Ohio, Watershed Distillery. Watershed launched in 2010 and introduced two distinct spirits. Made in small batches using the finest ingredients available, these spirits represent years of determination and refinement on behalf of its owners.
“We wanted to create products that we could be proud to share with our friends, family and community,” said Lehman. “We believe that Watershed Gin and Watershed Vodka are world-class spirits. The care we’ve put into every aspect of our process — from the 100% natural ingredients to the custom built copper still — really comes through in every sip.”
The 60 gallon still that Watershed uses was hand-built in Germany. It is a unique combination of a pot and column still.
Watershed Gin, the company’s signature product, is a light, modern gin with a smooth body and a unique and aromatic blend of botanicals. Layered over the juniper note that one typically associates with gin, Watershed infuses a proprietary blend of seven other carefully
“We use a fair amount of juniper and coriander, but we’ve evolved the traditional gin flavor profile with a combination of citrus peel which emphasizes an orange and grapefruit note,” says Lehman.
Watershed Vodka is made of 100% corn grown in the Midwest, and is quadruple-distilled, giving the spirit a light body and smooth drinkability. Using corn allows a very subtle sweetness to the Vodka, but the main attribute is Watershed’s sheer purity. Watershed Vodka will appeal to lovers of traditional cocktails as well as connoisseurs of ultra-premium sipping vodkas.
“It’s incredibly versatile — and a great value, too,” says Lehman.
Pricing and availability
Although Watershed invests many resources into each batch of spirits they make, it was decided early on that they would work hard to make their spirits accessible. Watershed Gin will retail at $27.90 for a 750Ml bottle and Watershed Vodka will sell for $24.60. Both spirits hit store shelves across Ohio in mid-December 2010. Watershed Distillery received an enthusiastic reception by bars and restaurants interested in offering their patrons unique, locally-made products.
“We believe that we’re seeing the emergence of an exciting ‘cocktail culture,’ especially in Ohio’s bigger cities. We want to do whatever we
can to foster this new-found interest in premium spirits and drinks,” says Lehman.
On the distillery Website, customers can view an up-to-date map of locations where Watershed spirits are sold.
Watershed is not limiting its efforts to “white spirits” like gin and vodka. “We’re also working on a bourbon,” says Lehman. “We just recently filled the first barrel, and it should be bottled sometime in 2013.”
The bourbon will be the first of its kind to be made in Columbus since the pre-Prohibition era. In an effort to share just how small-scale and hands on their process is, the distillery plans to soon expand tours and tastings, which can currently be scheduled for Friday evenings from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., or by appointment. Call Greg Lehman at (614) 357-1929.
“We do all of the bottling, corking, labeling and batch numbering ourselves and would love to have visitors come in and experience that as well,” says Lehman. Bottling parties will soon be available by appointment.
The Watershed brand
Watershed Distillery takes its name from the largest distiller in the natural world, a watershed.
“I like the idea that a watershed is the natural binder of communities,” explains Lehman, “and we see our function as distillers in a similar way, forming extended communities around the spirits we are crafting to be shared.”
The name also had personal relevance for Lehman as he decided to leave his day job and commit to distilling full time, creating his own “Watershed Moment.”
“Life is full of watershed moments,” notes Lehman. “We want to celebrate these moments and the people who embrace them.”
The Watershed team has been seen around town with a chalkboard on which people can write in their “Watershed Moments.”
“People share these moments with us — a memory, an epiphany, a triumph, a tragedy - some are funny, some are actually pretty serious. It’s really exciting for us to connect with members of our community, and we hope we can enhance their enjoyment of life’s important events.”
In the end, Watershed hopes to engage their audience in an honest and approachable way.
“At its heart, our business is about enjoyment. We would rather entertain and engage than impress.”