Cleveland Whiskey: Urban Distilleries

By: Sarah Routh

January 14, 2014

Cleveland, Ohio Skyline

There’s the traditional way to make bourbon and then there’s the Cleveland way.

The traditional way (and that’s traditional as in centuries-old) goes something like this: ferment, distil and place in a charred, American oak barrel. And wait, and wait, and wait – anywhere from two to 12 or more years.

The Cleveland way speeds things up, more than a little. Instead of waiting for years, the folks at Cleveland Whiskey move their bourbon from barrel to bottle in about a week.


Cleveland Whiskey | Urban Distilleries

Cleveland Whiskey’s bourbon is made in a matter of days © Cleveland Whiskey

Tom Lix, founder of Cleveland Whiskey, doesn’t like to get too technical about the process but it involves aging the spirits under extremely high pressure, in a stainless steel vat with pieces of barrel thrown in. But he’s happy to talk about the result – genuine, 100-proof bourbon that stands up to the premium (and traditionally aged) bourbons. In a series of blind taste tests called the Cleveland Challenge, real people have been picking the Cleveland stuff over Knob Creek (a well-known and well-loved bourbon that packs the same punch) more than half the time. Not bad for a bourbon made in days instead of years.


Clevelanders agree. The urban distillery consistently sells out of its weekly 3,000-bottle run. Bottles, which retail for $35, can be hard to come by, so we asked Lix to recommend a few spots to sip Cleveland Whiskey.


Whiskey Challenge | Cleveland Whiskey | Urban Distilleries

The Cleveland Challenge pits Cleveland Whiskey against Knob Creek bourbon © Cleveland Whiskey

The Market Garden Brewery, a beer garden in the Ohio City neighbourhood, mixes several Cleveland Whiskey twists on traditional cocktails like the Sugar Plum Fairy, a Christmas Bourbon Manhattan with plum preserves. In nearby Tremont, Cleveland’s original hipster neighbourhood, Press Wine Bar serves wine on tap and Cleveland Whiskey too. There’s a fistful of Winking Lizard Taverns in the city, all stocked with Cleveland Whiskey (try one of three the Lizardville locations for a souvenir bottle). And, if you’ve left it to the last minute, you get a taste at the Great Lakes Brewing Company in the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.


Cleveland Whiskey | Urban Distilleries

There are a number of bars in the city where visitors can sample Cleveland Whiskey © Alexey Lysenko/iStock/Thinkstock

If you’d rather sip your bourbon where it’s born, book a Cleveland Whiskey tour. The distillery will open its facilities to the public in November 2013 – at an open house honouring its Christmas Bourbon. Regular tours will be available beginning in early 2014.


Cleveland Whiskey | Urban Distilleries

Visitors can also sample the spirit on a Cleveland Whiskey distillery tour © puchkovo48/iStock/Thinkstock

Finally, we asked Lix about the name – sure the whiskey is made here (in a downtown manufacturing incubator), but what’s so “Cleveland” about it? “People [say] the name for them [means] something that’s authentic and genuine, hardworking and entrepreneurial and- last but not least, edgy. We say that Cleveland is an attitude, not just a geography,” says Lix.


That sounds about right.


Written by Sarah Routh


Our partnership with Delta provides numerous connections across the United States and Canada, making booking flights to Cleveland even easier.


Have you tried Cleveland Whiskey? Where’s your favourite place to sip Bourbon in the city? Share your thoughts with us below.


Sarah Routh

Sarah Routh writes about food, travel, and entertainment. She’s written a cookbook, a children’s book and more restaurant reviews than she can count. Sarah grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and although her sixteen-year-old self would never believe it, she’s thrilled to be raising her three children there. When she’s not writing, eating, or shuffling children around, she’s busy exploring her hometown.

Categories: Our Places