Indian Creek Distillery – A Destination
for History and Flavor
By Shelly Calvert
This article originally appeared in the 2019 issue of This Local Life magazine
NEW CARLISLE - When Indian Creek increases its line of small batch distilled liquors, the new labels are always inspired by a period of history and the re-telling of a family story. This year, new products—and having to deal with new liquor laws—have owners Joe and Missy Duer feeling nostalgic, so they’re calling it their “coming home year.”
“We’re focusing on getting our production up, and in the near future will transition our tasting tavern into the Staley Sample Room, where we will be able to serve cocktails and charcuterie boards with an old-fashioned feel,” Missy said.
New state restrictions have reduced shelf space in liquor stores for small, hand-crafted distilleries, such as Indian Creek, to make room for bigger name brands. Indian Creek’s products, which were once available in more than 250 stores are now only in 30 places due to these restrictions.
“We sell out of everything we make, so with these changes, it’s time to streamline our process, make more alcohol and make this a destination location,” Missy said, speaking about the beautiful, frontier-inspired estate that is home to the distillery and Staley Mill Farm at 7095 Staley Road near New Carlisle.
Indian Creek recently introduced a new spirit called 1820 Bourbon. It’s a traditional mash bill whiskey named for the year that Elias Staley bought the Staley Mill Farm and built the original distillery on the property.
Missy, who’s a sixth generation Staley at the farm, said the mash bill recipe is a rare family recipe that creates a complex 100 proof whiskey. It is so smooth that it won a bronze medal in June at the Heartland Whiskey Competition (sanctioned by the American Craft Spirits Association) in Chicago, IL.
With the first batches of 1820 Bourbon selling out fast, more is aging in the barrel and will be bottled in time for fall sipping.
Another new label is a barrel-aged gin called Gypsy Gin, which, just like the 1820 Bourbon, has a story behind its name.
Missy said for about 100 years, from the mid-1800s to the 1930s, it was common to see gypsies riding horses and wagons through Bethel Township in the spring, including past the Staley Mill Farm.
“They were beautiful people with dark skin, and their wagons were brightly colored,” she explained. “They would sell pots and pans and tell your fortune. After cars were invented, they went to big, black cars and they put black curtains in the windows. They came up here from the Dayton area. The neighbors here would get on their phone ‘party lines’ and say ‘the gypsies are coming!’ It was a tradition in this area every spring.”
Gypsy Gin, named in their honor, is a botanical gin with a light brown color from aging in bourbon barrels. The gin contains a blend of herbs and spices and is described by Missy as, “lovely and fun, and different. There is nothing like it on the market.”
The new 1820 Bourbon and Gypsy Gin, as well as six other handcrafted spirits at Indian Creek are distilled by Joe and branded by Missy. Together, the couple has created all eight of the individually distinct liquors, as well as a rye-aged maple syrup and a line of four differently flavored bitters.
They have also embraced their centuries-old family estate along Indian Creek by preserving and protecting the historic buildings on the property, some of which are more than 200 years old, and also adding a new stillhouse. The stillhouse, which blends in perfectly with the older buildings, houses the original copper stills used by Missy’s ancestors, which the couple resurrected and refurbished in 2011 after finding them in near perfect condition in an old barn on the property.
In addition to the stills and office space, the new building has a retail store, the Staley Sample Room, a place for tours, and an outdoor area for sipping and enjoying the quiet countryside. An outdoor stage next to the stillhouse is used for live music and other special events during the summer and fall, and the Duers also rent out the space for small gatherings, family reunions, birthday parties, business meetings and even small weddings.
During tours, each of the distillery’s spirits is offered in a tasting flight, while family history is woven into the stories of each product and its name. This includes: Elias Staley White Rye, introduced in 2012, Staley Rye Aged, which was first available in 2013, and two whiskeys crafted in 2016 that are named after family uncles who lived and worked on the farm, Andy’s Old No. 5 and Dandy John’s.
Andy’s Old No. 5 is named in honor of Missy’s great-great-uncle, Andy, who “was born on the farm, died on the farm, and never married. He was the main distiller here after Elias died. He kept it up,” Missy said.
During a time when large distilleries were changing how whiskey was being made and distributed, Missy said Andy remained true to tradition.
“The ‘Old Boys’ continued to use the old stills and the old recipes,” she said.
Dandy John’s is named after Missy’s great-great-uncle, John, who earned the nickname “Dandy” because of his fancy ways in a time of simple, country living. Missy said he was known to his family for liking the finer things in life, so naming a white corn whiskey that is described as “bright and clean, chock full of sweet grain flavor,” seemed the right choice to honor Uncle John, she said.
“The spirit of the family, that early American independence and can-do attitude, lives strong in my heritage,” Missy added. “It’s that spirit of ‘longevity in a place’ that has produced eight generations of Staley’s.”
To this day, distiller Joe’s routine is close to that of Missy’s ancestors. His distilling routine consists of walking from the house to the distillery, where he will “mash in,” which means grinding grain and adding it to hot water. A little later in the process yeast is added and then the product is left to ferment for three to four days, followed by additional distilling processes. From raw grain to bottle or barrel it takes seven days.
Barrels are also used in the making of the distillery’s maple syrup.
“We decided to do a twist on the bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup and do a rye barrel-aged instead, and the results were a decadently delicious maple syrup,” Missy said.
The maple syrup is locally sourced from West Milton, then aged in the used rye whiskey barrels. It can be found in many local small retail stores throughout the Miami Valley, or purchased at Indian Creek.
In 2017, the couple added “Medicine Man” bitters, which are aromatic condiments that can be added to cocktails or cooking. The bitters are house-made in four different flavors ranging from a smoky tobacco to vanilla and maple. The aromatic bitters are herbal blends sold in 3.4 ounce (100 ml) bottles at the Indian Creek Distillery retail store.
Missy said she appreciates the roots her family has in the territory. For decades she has kept documents, photos and artifacts that point back to centuries gone by. “We walk on history,” she said. “It’s a blessing.”
As the Duers celebrate their coming home year, not to mention the addition of two new labels, they invite the public to share in the experience, history and flavor by visiting the distillery for a tour, tasting or special event. The distillery is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with guided tours offered at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays. To learn more, call (937) 845-1142 or visit staleymillfarmanddistillery.com. Follow them on Facebook HERE.