Artisanal Indiana Distilleries
Taking Their Shot: What’ll it be: whiskey, gin, or moonshine? Be still our hearts, Indiana’s emerging crew of craft spirit-makers offers all that and more. To find the cure for what ails you, we visited some of the area’s finest and collected a few knee-knocking cocktail recipes along the way. Have a sip—it’s on us.
Spirits Are Moving
Not too long ago, ordering a beer generally meant choosing from a menu of taps that offered everything from Budweiser to Bud Light. Today, there’s a craft brewery on every other corner, a cleverly christened IPA for every town. In short order, beer went from something monopolized by a wagon-circled posse of famous names to an indicator of witty naming conventions, taste, and local pride. If the men and women on these pages have anything to say about it, the next logical step is upon us. “The spirits side is just getting to where beer is,” says Travis Barnes, founder of Hotel Tango. “We’re at the infancy of that cycle.”
Make no mistake, the boom is on: In 2017, the American Craft Spirits Association reported that more than 1,500 craft distilleries currently operate nationwide. In 2010, there were about 200. It’s lively locally, too: There are more than 20 in Indiana, and the number is going up. That’s largely thanks to the 2013 passing of the Indiana Artisan Distiller’s Permit, a law that allows distillers to sell directly to consumers. Initially, there was a catch: The long-delayed permit required distilleries to wait three years before being eligible. In 2017, that wait was reduced to 18 months.
As such, Indy’s distillery surge is partly due to legalese and paperwork. But it’s also cultural. We’re all good with craft beers, but, jeez, those have a lot of carbs. Mostly, spirits are the next evolution in the maker movement as it pertains to alcohol. “Craft beer’s been at it for a while, and craft wine for longer than that,” says Dave Colt, cofounder of Sun King, the city’s preeminent brewer, which is getting into the distillery game. “Spirits are the next wave, that natural progression.” And, as with the craft beer revolution, the local insurgents are taking dead aim at the big guys. “I don’t see 8th Day or Sun King as competition,” says Barnes. “We’re trying to flip the switch for guys who only buy Jack or Jim Beam to try local or state spirits. The rising tide lifts all ships.” — Jeff Vrabel
Named for the date of Prohibition repeal and launched in 2014 by Teresa Webster, the Fletcher Place hangout remains the first female-opened craft distillery in Indiana.
Launched in 2014 by a collection of college friends, it’s both Indianapolis’s first artisan distillery and the first service-disabled veteran-owned distillery in the country.
The tasting room at 8th Day Distillery sparkles with white walls, bright hanging lights, and new wooden tables.
The new $5 million, 15,000-square-foot, two-level Sun King Spirits overlooks the Monon Trail in Midtown Carmel.
West Fork occupies an evocative corner spot in the Kennedy-King neighborhood, across 17th Street from the Cannon Ball Brewing Co., close to the Monon, and about a half-mile from Tinker Street and Festiva.
Situated on 325 acres of Brown County landscape, their new home, Hard Truth Hills, is big. Really big, with 27-foot-tall columns and enough power to turn out 400 gallons in an eight-hour shift.
The place is Cardinal Spirits, a distillery, tasting room, and now restaurant that Jeff Wuslich and Adam Quirk launched in 2015 to ride the Don Draper-fueled wave.
Tucked smack in the middle of Gnaw Bone, Bear Wallow Distillery opened its still and tasting room in August 2014.