Winery jumps into booze boom

Distilled spirits, like whiskey, bourbon, brandy and more, have become the rage in the adult beverage world of late.

Indiana has been a part of the boom with distilleries starting to pop up and more on the drawing boards.

French Lick Winery is the second Hoosier winery to jump into the fray with initial releases of their Spirits of French Lick products this fall.

“Ted Huber and I have been talking about this for about 10 years because we both wanted to make bourbon,” said John Doty, owner of French Lick Winery. “I’ll be honest, Ted has a lot more pull in the legislature than I do, so he did the lion’s share of getting that law changed in July of 2013. Our distillery has been in the planning ever since.”

Huber’s Orchard and Winery has been in the business for some time and built a building specifically for the distillery. Earlier this year, Ted Huber confirmed more construction is going to be needed for his booming business.

French Lick is uniquely positioned to do just as well as Huber’s, a tourist destination near Louisville but with few other attractions in the area. The French Lick Winery and Distillery is just across the street from the fabulously renovated West Baden Springs and French Lick Springs hotels. French Lick also boasts a casino, a prestigious 18-hole golf course and a water park.

“A lot of distilleries specialize in just one or two spirits,” Doty said. “We’re going to be unique in that we already have an Italian restaurant and have the winery. We have so many people who come in and want beer or cocktails, so we’re going to make a wide selection of spirits so we can pour them in our restaurant.”

John and Kim Doty started small in 2008 and have grown, with the wine lineup now reaching 23.

“We’ve always been customer driven with our wines,” he said. “We visit so many wineries, and so many wineries are guilty of making wines the winemaker or owner likes. You go to distilleries, you see the same thing.

“It doesn’t matter what I like. It’s all about what the customers like. When you come in, we want to have something you will like. We want the same with our distillery.”

To achieve that goal, Doty is determined to offer a variety of spirits.

“We’ll concentrate on what we think we can keep up with, like the vodka, Aquavit, and specialty bourbons,” he said.

He wants to do some unique offerings, like oak whiskey and buckwheat bourbon.

“We won’t make a lot of these but enough for our tasting room. Most of our whiskies and bourbons are 51 to 60 percent corns, and the rest of the flavoring will be these flavoring grains,” he said.

Doty was able to hire a master distiller, Alan Bishop, who hopes to see the product line expand to fully occupy the 18,000 square feet set aside for the distillery.

The Doty family is growing some of the grain and plans to grow even more. What they can’t grow, they plan to source locally whenever possible.

During a late summer visit, the vodka was on the winery shelves, while other products were tasted for a VIP preview event. The winery plans an Oct. 15 grand opening for the Spirits of French Lick.

Howard W. Hewitt of Crawfordsville writes every other week about value wine. Contact Howard at hewitthoward@gmail.comv