^ From left, Mill Street Moonshine, Bourbon and Grappa.
It's called white dog, white ghost, white lightening, hooch, mountain dew, firewater, and of course, Moonshine. But no matter the name, you can find it being legally distilled right here in Licking County. The first Ohio distillery to be licensed to distill moonshine by the federal government in 2013, Mill Street Distillery makes its home in Utica and prides itself on using local ingredients and being 100% American made.
^ Carlos Ogden and Jeff Thompson
Moonshine has a storied history and some distilleries shy away from using the name because of the negative connotation. However, the founders of Mill Street Distillery, Dr. Paul Taiganides, Carlos Ogden, and Jeff Thompson, have embraced moonshine and customers seem to appreciate the smooth, 80 proof unaged corn whiskey. Ogden says they custom designed their copper still and had Bucyrus Copper Kettle Works (the oldest coppersmiths in the United States) hammer it out for them. Moonshine must contain 51% corn to earn the federal government's approval and Mill Street is lucky enough to be in close proximity to a lot of corn. Their grain is delivered by forklift from Utica Feed & Hardware year round, even in the snow. This allows Mill Street to consistenly distill moonshine. Ogden believes they have improved upon the backwoods moonshine process to create a smoother, tastier drink.
^ A hand made copper still works year round.
Mill Street Distillery also produces a fiery Italian liquor called Grappa. Grappa was actually Mill Street's inspiration for founding a distillery but due to its seasonal nature, Ogden says they had to have a base product. Thus the creation of their moonshine. Mill Street makes Grappa from late August through early October from discarded grape skin after winemaking. Aged for at least 90 days in new barrels, Mill Street Grappa is 86 proof. Ogden and Thompson traveled to Crete where they met many distillers ranging from those serving up five course meals with tastings to those in a shanty or lean to. They fell in love with Grappa, a product most Americans are not familiar with, and decided they would try their hand at creating their own using Ohio grapes. Best for sipping before or after meals, Grappa is an acquired taste. And despite only being able to make it a few months a year, Mill Street already has a dedicated customer following for their Grappa.
Mill Street's newest product is bourbon, a whiskey aged in virgin American Oak barrels from Jackson, Ohio that are charred on the inside. Unlike straight bourbon that has to age for two years, regular bourbon doesn't have to age as long. Mill Street's ages their moonshine for at least 18 months to create their signature 90 proof Bourbon.
^ Bourbon aging in oak barrels.
VISITING MILL STREET
To sample Mill Street Moonshine, Grappa and Bourbon visit the distillery for a tour and tasting any time they are open. Carlos Ogden and Jeff Thompson run the day to day operations are are happy to discuss their hand-crafted spirits with visitors Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 11am -5pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11am - 6pm. Mill Street is closed on Wednesdays. Presently visitors may only imbibe one total ounce of booze per visit served in 1/4 ounce pours. Soon though, when HB 351 goes into effect, Mill Street will be able to serve cocktails and beer and increase their capacity from 10,000 gallons of spirits per year to 100,000 gallons. Ogden says they only sell in Ohio but one day hope to be a global company. Experts agree they are on the right track. The 2014 International Review of Spirits awarded Mill Street's Moonshine silver and its Grappa took home Gold going up against all Italian Grappas.
Mill Street Distillery is located at 10 Mill Street in Utica. Visitors will know they've found it when they see the green 1941 Chevy truck. Products can also be found at Kroger on Deo Drive in Newark, the Kroger in Heath, Ross' IGA in Granville, Giant Eagle in New Albany and any state liquor store.
Mill Street Distillery
10 Mill Street, Utica