It’s Time to Celebrate A “Crossroads” for Ruhe Distilling in Nappanee

It’s Time to Celebrate A “Crossroads” for Ruhe Distilling in Nappanee

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Ruhe Distilling in Nappanee is ready to release an American Single Malt Whiskey called Crossroads. Ruhe Brewing, Ruhe Distilling, and Ruhe 152 restaurant are located on US 6 in the Amish country of Northern Indiana. It’s the “crossroads” of different ways of life, of cultures, of the state, and of craft beverages and food, and this is the basis for the new whiskey’s name. The release event is May 19, and we’ll say more about that below, but first let’s learn more about the whiskey and the distiller.

Beyond just the location, this American Single Malt Whiskey is also a sort of crossroads for distiller David Michael himself. With a history in counseling youth before entering brewing and distilling and working his way up, David has had a varied career in and out of craft beverages. He told me, “I was in Grad school, 2 weeks out from seeing my first clients as a student therapist when I was offered my first brewing job. As a homebrewer at the time, I immediately dropped out of school and started making beer for a living. Distilling came early on in my brewing career, starting with Chapmans, then Stranahans, and now with Ruhe. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m so thrilled and so blessed to be at a point in my career in which I have the honor of releasing my own whiskey.”

With this background, debuting his own American single malt whiskey at Ruhe Distilling is a milestone for him. I tried to read about what an American Single malt whiskey; it turns out not to be a simply explained name. Single doesn’t refer to a lone batch or a lone barrel, or even a lone grain or product (although it can). “Single” refers to the fact that the whiskey was made from a single distillery, not blended from products of different distillers.

Can single malt whiskies be blends? Sure, it can be blended from different batches, different barrels and different types of barrels, and they often are – as long as it all comes from the same distillery. The ”malt” part of the name means that the whiskey is distilled from only water and malted barley. So, in this regard, the “single malt” is the same as a single grain whiskey, but it’s not quite that simple. You can blend peated malt and regular malt, or wood smoked malt and other malt, or 2-row malt and 6-row malt (not common), or even different varieties of 2-row malt – just as long as they are all barley malts.

The ”whiskey” part of the name refers to the general type of spirit it is. Whiskey (or whisky if you’re in Scotland or Canada) and its sub-type bourbon are distilled grain mash (any number of grains, malted or unmalted for whiskey versus ≥51% corn for bourbon), and aged in wooden barrels, while gin, vodka, and other spirits are made from grain or other things and are not generally aged in wood.

Finally, Crossroads is an American single malt whiskey. Is this just a matter of geography, or is there a bit more? Scotch single malts, by the definition determined in Scotland, are produced in pot stills (single batch), while in America, single malts can be produced from pot stills or column stills (continuous). American single malts are a fairly new product compared to Scotch single malts, so a single definition wasn’t developed until about a year and a half ago, after many of these products were already in the barrels.

The pot still used for Crossroads American Single Malt Whiskey. image credit: Ruhe Distilling

The definition that the American Single Malt Commission came up with – a whiskey made from 100% malted barley, distilled at a single distillery, mashed, distilled to a maximum of 160 proof, and matured in the US, matured in oak casks, and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof. Notice that the definition doesn’t demand that the mash (or wort or wash) be produced at the same distillery at which it is distilled and matured. Crossroads American Single Malt Whiskey is produced 100% at Ruhe, and I think it’s the better for it.

All that being said, the geography does indeed have an effect on the product. European grains are going to taste a bit different, likewise for the humidity and climate, as will the European woods for the barrels, and whatever might have been in the barrels previously. So single malt Scotch is really made just in Scotland, while an American single malt whiskey will reflect the terroir (local environment) from where their ingredients are derived.

image credit: Ruhe Distilling

Wow, David has been taking a lot of things into account in order to make you a purely Ruhe product with deep roots and which reflects the care of craft. I know I learned something by looking at this (I now have to remember the difference between single in a single malt beer and a single malt whiskey), and have a deeper appreciation for the spirit.

Crossroads itself is bottled at 100 proof, and has been aging for two years in 53 gallon virgin white oak barrels charred to a #3 level. The entire process from malt to bottle took place at Ruhe Distilling, and represents the first brown water spirits from Ruhe. Dave told me, “The tasting notes would include toffee, graham cracker, cinnamon, chocolate, malt and cherry. We think it’s a unique alternative to the Bourbons that are found across the US.”

To celebrate Crossroads and all that it represents, Ruhe Distilling is throwing a party (21+ only)! Starting at 3pm on Sunday, May 19, you can visit Ruhe Distilling (inside Ruhe 152 at 152 W. Market St., Nappanee, IN 46550). The kitchen will be closed for the day so the entire focus can be on the whiskey, but there will be plenty of fun on hand. The bartenders will be doing pours of Crossroads and using it in Old Fashioneds, and Dave will be on hand to discuss Crossroads, sign bottles, and just hang out. Plus there will be DJ Trent Dean playing music, and everyone present will be given the chance to sign that first Crossroads barrel. Bottles will be for sale, of course, but there will be a two-bottle limit.

Come out to celebrate with Ruhe and David, and to learn more about this “Crossroads”, in all its forms.

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