Watershed Bourbon

Watershed Distillery's Bourbon is a 94 proof, four grain (i.e. corn, wheat, rye, spelt) bourbon whiskey produced by friends and entrepreneurs Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo in the heart of Columbus, Ohio.

Lehman and Rigo (a.k.a. "Lego") opened their distillery in 2010 after dabbling in other industries (e.g. professional volleyball in Switzerland, North Carolina pork, flipping houses in 2008...). While Lehman was playing volleyball in Switzerland, he was inspired by Swiss loyalty to local ingredients, products, and spirits and returned home determined to create something of his own.

When he and Rigo opened Watershed in 2010, they chose Columbus, Ohio, and they also chose to add 5% spelt to their unique bourbon mash recipe. Spelt, also known as hulled wheat or dinkel wheat, has been cultivated by farmers since 5000 B.C. but was not introduced to the United States until the 1890's. It fell out of favor with American farmers in most places as it is harder to thresh than winter wheat, but today, Ohio leads the nation in spelt production.

Watershed also produces two popular gins, a vodka, and an Italian walnut liqueur called "nocino" to keep cash flowing, but they "make vodka and gin to support their bourbon habit."

The bourbon is aged in 10 and 30 gallon oak barrels and is currently 3.5 years old. Each Watershed Bourbon release will be 6 months older until it's 6 years old. They also have whiskey aging in 53 gallon barrels for future releases of more mature bourbon expressions.  

Watershed Distillery Bourbon Whiskey

Watershed Distillery
94 proof

Color: Medium amber.

Nose: Light on the nose, my first impression is alcohol and cedar wood.  As it breathes, notes of sweet corn, roses, and vanilla mingle with rye bread and leather.     

Tasting Notes: Vanilla and honey sweetness lead the way.  For a young bourbon, the mouthfeel is silky smooth, if slightly thin, as you'd expect.  Mid-sip, the grains kick up with an earthy corn flavor and a nutty influence, which I attribute to the spelt.  Charred oak and spice finish off a pleasant pour. 

Overall: B. The heat is very subdued and the flavor profile isn't wildly complex, but it is unique and better than your average craft bourbon.  If you like smooth whiskey, Watershed will satisfy.  Their bold bottle and handsome label stand out on busy shelves, which is worth something these days.

Random note: The name "Watershed" relates to the Big Walnut watershed, a body of water in central Ohio, and the literal meaning of the word watershed- a life changing moment- like giving up pork sales to open a distillery.

Peer reviews:

*DisclaimerWatershed kindly provided me with a sample of their bourbon whiskey, no strings attached.  Thank you.