Watershed was founded by Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo in 2010, but the idea to start a distillery was conceived years earlier while Lehman was playing professional volleyball in Switzerland. Inspired by the locally produced spirits that were common in the area, Greg thought about the possibility of creating spirits in his Ohio hometown Columbus. He shared his idea with Dave and they began working on making it a reality.
Before prohibition, Ohio was home to dozens of distilleries producing unique flavors specific to the region. However, since prohibition Ohio is one of the most difficult states to start a distillery. In 2007, Greg and Dave began working on what would become the newest addition to the very long history of micro-distilling in Ohio, Watershed Distillery, famous for world-class vodka, gin, and bourbon. Working a custom made Kothe still from Germany, Greg and Dave create unique and pure spirits that have been turning heads from the Midwest to the eastern seaboard.
Both the vodka and gins are made from high quality locally grown corn (95%) and apples (5%) sourced from family operations. Everything comes in one truckload at a time and is augured into the 1200 bushel grain bin in the back of the distillery. The corn comes in cleaned and whole kernel. It is then augered into the hopper above the mill and begins to feed the mill. An 8/32 screen is used to get the corn as fine as possible before it is sent through a second auger. The corn gets pushed through the 2nd auger into a hold bin above the mash cooker. For the vodka or the gins the mash bill is the same at this point (100% corn). For the bourbon, it is a blend of mostly corn with wheat, rye and 5% spelt. After all the grain has been milled and is in the grain bin above the mash cooker, the flour is slowly fed into the mash cooker, that has approximately 700 gallons of hot water at this point. It typically takes 30 minutes or so to add all of the 2000 lbs of grain for one mash. It is done slowly so that it mixes and cooks evenly. Some alpha amylase is added along the way to help with starch conversion. After that, the mash cooks for 90 minutes at 190 degrees before the cooling process is started by pumping chilled water through the dual jacketed mash cooker. Once it is down to 140 degrees, some gluco amylase is added to continue the starch conversion. The mash keeps getting cooled until it reaches 75 degrees. Vodka or whiskey strains of yeast (depending on which is being made) is then added and the mash is pumped into one of the 1000 gallon fermenters. It ferments for anywhere from 4 to 5 days. Once fermentation is complete, the distiller’s beer is pumped into the big still.