Steve Ross has been distilling spirits for a few years now. It’s only been in the last year or so, however, that he’s been able to offer tours and tastings in his Mishawaka, Indiana, micro distillery, 18 Vodka. A change in Indiana law that prevented tours and tastings now allows them.
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I took the tour, which lasted approximately a half hour. Steve explained all of the vodka making steps, from grinding the grain to putting the label on the bottle. He mentioned that 18 Vodka is the only distiller in Indiana who processes vodka from start to finish.
The process begins with whole rye grain, which is ground into a fine grain.
Water and rye malt are combined with the rye grain and heated to create mash. During this time starches convert to sugar. After a cool down the liquid is pumped into fermenting tanks. Following fermenting, the vodka is distilled in the 21 chamber copper distiller that was imported from Germany. The vodka is distilled 18 times, thus the name 18 Vodka. The more times vodka is distilled, the more acetone and methanol is removed. The less acetone and methanol remaining in the finished product, the lower the chance you’ll suffer from a hangover.
Steve demonstrated the bottling process using a machine that fills 200 bottles per hour. The bottle is capped, labeled and ready for shipment.
Following the tour, at the bar that Steve handcrafted himself, we tasted the vodka, along with other spirits distilled at 18 Vodka. I’m not much of a hard liquor drinker straight up, but I have to admit that the vodka went down a lot smoother than most vodka I’ve tasted.
The same law that now allows tours and tastings allows retail sale of the products at the micro distillery, so you can purchase it right on site, if you’d like. Previously, the product could be sold only through a distributor.
18 Vodka, located at 4211 Grape Road in Mishawka, Indiana, offers tours Wednesday through Saturday. The cost is $6, including tastings. Reservations are suggested since space is limited. Visit the web site for full details.
Disclosure: My tour of 18 Vodka was hosted by Visit South Bend, but any opinions expressed in this post are my own.
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