As you may have noticed already, we are admirers of brown spirits. We take our whiskey rather seriously around here and are always delighted to meet one we've never tried. Recently, we met the fantastic team behind Middle West Spirits out of Columbus, Ohio. While probably best known for their unfiltered, old Russian bubbe-style vodka, we gravitated, as we naturally do to their line of OYO Whiskeys.
We all know that we are absolute suckers for edible and potable nostalgia, which meant that when we met co-founders Brady Konya and Ryan Lang, we were pre-destined to fall in love with their story. The two have a powerful commitment to the process and history of distilling liquor and a profound respect and adoration for their now-home state of Ohio. Their methods are traditional. Nearly all the grains they use to create their spirits are from their beloved Ohio, and they throw the word "terroir" around like wine producers. Which, in a slightly less genuine package could seem pretentious and overbearing, but we found the founders, like their whiskey, to be anything but.
We knew we needed to haul in some seasoned whiskey drinkers for this taste test, so we asked our friends and kindred whiskey-loving-spirits over at HuffPost Weird News to come taste these awesome whiskeys with us. Some of us are confirmed old boozehounds, and some sort of new to sipping whiskey. Here's what we thought of each.
OYO Bourbon Whiskey: Michelone Reserve
90 proof, pot distilled wheated bourbon whiskey
We all found this to be the most accessible of the OYO whiskey offerings. The word smooth seems so inadequate in describing the mouthfeel and flavor of this whiskey. It is like butter. Sweet, slightly smoky butter. Some of our tasters said: "Goes down easy with only a slightly harsh after-burn." "Butterscotchy. SO warming on the throat. I want this when I'm sick (and when I'm not)." "Seriously, this is from OHIO? Delicious. A hard bourbon kick but completely round." "Quite smooth, I prefer it without ice."
OYO Whiskey: 100% Ohio Soft Red Winter Wheat
92 proof, originally distilled, single-cask
After the velvety smooth bourbon, the OYO Whiskey was like diving into a sack of grains -- in a good way. The two whiskeys absolutely could not be more different, but are amazing in their own right. If you tend to find bourbons too sweet, this grain-heavy, bright whiskey is your man (or lady, however you roll). Some of our tasters said: "Strong, almost eye-watering taste." "A little stringent. Maybe too strong for a cocktail, but great straight." "A grain punch in the face, masked in the end by, again, sweet smoothness. For grain lovers, not filthy old men." [*Ed note: The Weird News team really wrote some great comments.] "The grain tastes much more pronounced! Doesn't change as much with ice as the bourbon did." "A little too intense for me."
OYO Rye Whiskey: Barreling Strength White Whiskey
110 proof, originally distilled, 100% pumpernickel rye whiskey (unaged)
If you've ever tasted white dog before (unaged whiskey, pretty much straight off the still) you know that it is no joke. Most white whiskeys are (we say this with love) total rocket fuel. Incredibly, OYO's unaged rye actually tastes like whiskey. To have made something at 110 proof that is actually sippable is no small feat. Some of our tasters said: "Yikes. Very strong." "So pumpernickely. So much burn. So good. (But not for the faint of heart.)" "Surprisingly palatable white dog, especially on ice." "Reminds me of one time I got way too drunk." "A lot spicier than the others, but still so much nicer than any other white dog I've ever had."
Select markets are lucky enough to have OYO in their liquor stores. If you are not in one of those markets, we have really great news, you can get OYO Whiskey and other spirits through the Party Source.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that all of OYO's grains are sourced locally. While nearly all of them are, they do use a Kentucky bourbon to supplement their distilled Ohio grains in the OYO Bourbon.