Writer's Block, a fitting title...

The second spirit I produced for 451 was meant to be acounterpoint to Dear Johnny. Despite my love for big, bold, smoky spirits; Ialso knew I wanted something on the other end of the spectrum to show weweren't a one trick pony. Something lighter and easier drinking. A yin to theyang. Life is all about balance.

I also knew that not everyone loves whiskey, it's not a perfect world after all!


I know a lot of women that love and appreciate whiskey.

This one however, does not.

The entire premise of 451 Spirits is to create unique,innovative spirits using traditional methods. We considered spiced rum butthere are already plenty of those out there and we didn't feel we add anythingto add at the time to the cinnamon, nutmeg & vanilla conversation.

Other folks have that covered.

The idea that eventually emerged then was essentially a Mojito in a bottle. Rum re-distilled with mint and lime zest. We started with a classic molasses base that was then fermented and double distilled before being infused with the aforementioned ingredients before undergoing a third distillation. This was all blended to taste until we were happy with the result.

And the name?

Being that our distillery name is a literary reference we thought we'd follow that line of thought. Most people, if they're at all familiar with literature, when asked about authors and rum they will usually bring up Ernest Hemingway. He was notoriously fond of the stuff (and any drink in front of him to be honest) and spent a significant amount of time in the Keys and Caribbean.


There was one problem however.

His estate has a pretty firm grip on his name and likeness.Highly unlikely we could make an obvious nod to him without getting sued.Unwilling to let go of the idea though we kept searching for a solution. Thatsolution came with my partner Dave declaring that since we had Writer's Block,why not just name it that?

So there you go, there's a story behind every label. Sometimes the logic is just hidden beneath the surface.


A rose by any other name...

For those unfamiliar with us you may find yourself wondering, what’s up with these names? The titles bestowed upon our spirits definitely don’t follow the standard tropes of most spirits.You may ask,Have they abandoned all logic and sense of normalcy?!Will things ever be the same again?!Is this real life?!Well fear not. Though not readily apparent there’s a definite idea behind all of our spirits. You see, with most traditional spirits there are longstanding histories and key players along the way. However, the entire point of craft distilling is to break from the traditional and mainstream. We don’t have a longstanding lineage to trace our spirits back to.Some folks might tell you otherwise… most of them are lying.In the case of whiskey, things tend to go one of two ways, The Scotch Approach, and the Bourbon.Nearly every Scotch whisky is named for the place of its heritage. This makes sense for a couple reasons. Firstly, though small, Scotland’s various regions produce vastly different styles of malt. If you know happen to know where Glen (insert hard to pronounce Gaelic name here) is, then you have a good idea of what that whisky will taste like. Secondly, at least for anyone not from Scotland, the names have an exotic and romantic tone to them. Which brings us to Bourbon. If Bourbon was named the same way Scotch was we’d likely have things like Dead Possum Road and Cat Piss Holler Bourbon.Yum.So, for Bourbon, most of them are named for key figures in the brands’ history.Typically, old dead white guys.Stroll down the bourbon aisle sometime and take a count of how many times you see the word “Old” or how many names of people you’ve never heard of are there. There are of course exceptions, but not many.So, for craft distillers to follow suit is entirely disingenuous.We don’t have that history. I’m a first-generation distiller, straight from the kitchen. So, when we started talking about naming and branding we looked to our close cousins in the brewing world.Craft brewers take all kinds of approaches to naming their work. Due to the number of them, things sometimes get quite strange even. For us, we did the same and tried to find a correlation between our spirits, their history and the names that had a nice ring to them. In the coming weeks I’ll talk a bit about each of our spirits, their inspiration, and the reasoning behind them.Before I leave you though I’ll start with our most obvious… Dear Johnny.The whiskey our distillery was founded on was meant to be a new style.Anyone who knows me knows how much I love all styles of whisk(e)y. However, there’s enough of it already out there. We wanted to create something new.Inspired by the past but looking toward the future.Anachronistic Alchemy.We eventually developed a whiskey distilled from a near equal split of barley, rye and oats with the inclusion of roasted and chocolate barley for flavor. Then, to marry the essence of smoky Scotch with the full bodied flavors of Bourbon, we re-distilled a portion of it over smoked apples.Voila! Dear Johnny.As in Johnny Appleseed.He spent quite a bit of time here in Ohio.So, there you have it, two world renowned styles combined and taken to another place with a regional twist.Next up, Writer’s Block…

Oh Schnap!

I’m in the middle of making all the apple brandy we’ll use this year as the base of our gin and absinthe. Because of that, my mind has turned to schnapps.What comes to mind when you think of Schnapps?For most of us, probably memories of regret. Splitting headaches and hangovers so bad that the mere mention of the word triggers a slight gag.For many people, schnapps was their first foray into alcohol. A heisted bottle from your parent’s liquor cabinet smelling enticingly of peach candy or peppermint seems like a great idea after all. And then comes the morning after. After a few of these mistakes, Schnapps are often written off entirely, and for good reason. The Schnapps we’ve come to know (and despise) in the US are sugary sweet bastardizations bearing little resemblance to their forebears. But travel to Europe and you’ll find something far different.Schnaps (The second P is the Americanized spelling) are a traditional drink popular throughout Germany and Austria and neighboring areas. Unlike American Schnapps, which are usually grain alcohol with added fruit flavors and obscene amounts of sugar, European schnaps are actually distilled from the fruit itself. In France these are known as eau-de-vie, or water of life. Typically served chilled in a small glass, these spirits condense all the flavor of fresh fruit into a tiny swallow. In fact, the name schnaps originates from the act of consuming it in such a manner. Distilled in small alembic stills, these spirits originated much the same way as most other spirits. Not due to our unquenchable thirst, which is what causes continued production, but due to a surplus of food.Food spoils, we know that. Fruit will ripen to a point and then start to rot. Early farmers, trying to make the most of good crop year, would often be left with more than they could sell and needed to find a way to preserve their bounty. You could always pickle some things, but this would leave you with an unwieldy amount of food, in vinegar, in containers, that had to be looked after. Distillation however provided a means to preserve all the caloric value of the food while also capturing the flavor and spirit (yes, that’s where the word comes from) of the food itself. Distilled spirits condense everything about the fruit itself into a small, stable and manageable volume. In fact, it was very common in the old days for a travelling distillery to make its way around to different farms after harvests. Each farm would prep and ferment everything themselves and then the distiller would show up and turn it into their liquor for them.Eventually, this turned from necessity to craft and people began growing more fruit with the intention of turning it into brandy, eau-de-vie and schnaps. Necessity is the mother of invention after all.So, do yourself a favor and seek out some authentic schnaps, I have no doubt it’ll change your mind and alleviate the pain of some of those peach soaked bad memories. As with all aspects of the distilling world, there’s a wealth of history, traditions and origins waiting to be discovered, all it takes it is an inquisitive mind and a willingness to learn.