Blake Jones is on a mission to restore the rich legacy of Indiana whiskey. The Bedford, Indiana, native, who in his twenties began cultivating a taste for his father’s favorite Irish whiskeys and American bourbons, left the Hoosier State for a short stint in college as a red shirt football kicker at Virginia’s William and Mary. But he quickly pined for home and returned to finish his degree at IU and complete an MBA at Butler University. And while he enjoyed a short career in commercial banking, he was quickly spending hours schooling himself on spirits making, starting with moonshine and working with his Bedford buddies and future business partners David McIntyre and Julian Jones through several stills for great capacity and a good part of their back accounts while creating a whiskey with a deep corn profile indicative of heritage ones distilled near Spring Mill.
That whiskey would eventually become Old Hamer, the first of its style to win best whiskey at the International Whiskey Competition and the signature pour at his sleek first tasting room, West Fork Whiskey Co., which he located in the up-and-coming Kennedy King neighborhood north of downtown in 2017. But telling the world that bourbon doesn’t just come from Kentucky and Tennessee led him and his partners to plan a destination spirits venue, West Fork Distillery, in Westfield that will eventually span 25 acres and include a sampling room, a speakeasy-inspired bar, an education facility, tours, and a family-friendly restaurant, The Mash House, for which the trio pegged Westfield native and local culinary star Carlos Salazar as chef. The restaurant features such Hoosier staples as bluegill, pawpaw, and corn pudding, but whiskey is at the heart of the new venture. “We definitely would have been farther away from bankruptcy if we had sold vodka and gin,” Jones says. “But our love of whiskey and putting Indiana on the whiskey map is more important that that.”