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March 20, 2014

Spirit of distilling: Huber’s to make hard liquors in-house

Rezoning of land, state law pave the way for spirits

STARLIGHT — Soon to join the list of Huber’s world-famous fruit brandy and wine will be spirits of an entirely different flavor — whiskey, vodka and gin.

Because of an approved rezoning of Huber’s Orchard & Winery’s existing distillery last week by the Clark County Plan Commission, the family-owned business will now be able to distill alcohol made from grains.

This rezoning coattails a state law passed in July that allows production of hard liquor at microdistilleries, a bill that was championed by State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany.

“This has been our dream for decades,” said Ted Huber, owner of Huber’s. “By this bill passing, it finally gives us the opportunity to expand into the other marketplaces.”

Michael Tackatt, Clark County planning director, said that the area that was rezoned includes three acres of the property that houses the 9,000 square-foot distillery building. The request must come before the Clark County Commissioners for approval before Huber’s can have the official go-ahead, Tackatt said.

A new 350-gallon pot still for the grain alcohol will join the 80-gallon pot in the distillery that has been open since 2001, Huber said.

The still is being made and added to the existing distillery, with construction ending some time around early summer. Production is slated to begin by the fall.

The first spirit for sale will be vodka because it takes the least amount of time to distill. Huber said they will be selling it as soon as later this year.

“Brown spirits take a lot of years to age. We’re developing products very slowly,” he said, adding that they want to be able to perfect their batches.

Huber said they have also been granted an artisan permit that limits production to 10,000 proof gallons but allows them much more flexibility in what they distill.

“It lets us be very creative,” he said. “Anything available to us, we’re going to do.”

This includes spirits made from corn that is grown locally.

Like the winery, guests will be able to tour the distillery to get a better idea of the process that goes into making the alcohol.

“It’s going to be a good thing,” he said. “Guests that come here can have the full experience of what’s going on. They can come to the distillery, they can taste our products here at the distillery, they can buy our products here at the distillery, they can tour our distillery and they can make drinks [with the product].”

Expansion of the distillery will have a positive impact on Huber’s as a whole, according to Huber.

“This should give us a lot more tourism,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success with our brandy program. We’re hoping that we can take that knowledge from making brandy over the last 13 years and utilize that knowledge in making whiskeys.”

Huber’s well-regarded brandy is one of the reasons he is chairman of the Small Distiller Advisory Council, which belongs to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, or DISCUS.

Frank Coleman, senior vice president of DISCUS, said that the new artisan distillery law in Indiana helps catapult the state into the current era, calling previous regulations “Prohibition-era restrictions that have no place in the modern economy.”

“There’s ... demand for his products that he can expand out to other states and around the world,” he said. “There’s an extraordinary appreciation for American heritage products.”

Artisan distilling itself is a more popular trend that is returning from the days before Prohibition in the 1920s.

“There’s no doubt that the rise of small distillers throughout the country has created a sense of romance in the industry,” Coleman said. “It’s part of an act of restoration, really.”

Not only will Huber’s new distilled spirits help the local economy, he said, they will also add to the list of high-quality alcohol.

“Ted’s products are truly craft-distilled. There’s a care, there’s a quality,” Coleman said. “It’s all about drinking better, not necessarily about drinking more.”

 

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