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Story #88Cleveland WhiskeyCleveland, OH

I just thought, here’s an industry that hasn’t changed in hundreds of years, and those are the types of industries that are ripe for innovation – ripe for change.

Tom Lix’s favorite moment of every day is when he arrives at work and catches the scent of fresh bourbon wafting through the air vents. Lix is the owner of Cleveland Whiskey, a small business that is creating quite a buzz in the liquor industry – not by changing whiskey itself but by changing the way that it’s made. Through a process referred to as disruptive technology, Cleveland Whiskey has cut the amount of time it takes to make whiskey from 10 years to 24 hours.

A self-proclaimed amateur chemist, Lix began experimenting with the whiskey-making process in 2009 after reading about an increased demand for it in foreign countries. “If you have dynamic changes in the marketplace, I thought that would cause a shortage,” says Lix. Over the next few years, he fine-tuned his method of putting bourbon distillate into a barrel (as required by law), then immediately removing it, and cutting the barrel into pieces that are added, with the spirits, into a stainless steel tank. Variations in pressure are then used to move the alcohol in and out of the wood in a much faster and more aggressive method.

Cleveland Whiskey has faced its fair share of skeptics, as dedicated whiskey drinkers tend to balk at the idea of changing such a revered process. Some of Lix’s proudest moments are when those skeptics try the whiskey and change their minds. The company’s first bottle was shipped in 2013, and their whiskey is now distributed in 13 states and some foreign countries. It even has the presidential stamp of approval – President Obama is a repeat customer. Even President Obama took notice and came to Cleveland to tour the distillery.

Lix sees Cleveland Whiskey not only as an opportunity to change the industry he’s in but also as a way to promote the city of Cleveland itself, which he sees as being poised to turn itself back into a world class city. When doing tests for the brand name, “people said that Cleveland stood for something that was authentic and genuine, that it was hardworking, that it was entrepreneurial, and that it was edgy.” Lix sees his role as being an advocate for the city and entrepreneurship’s role in furthering its development.

“I’ve taken it on as a personal mission to help change the attitudes of people who live here and make them believe and see how amazing this city is.”

 

Photos by Shaul Schwarz

  • The radically different method that Cleveland Whiskey uses to make whiskey involves putting bourbon distillate into a barrel (as required by law), then immediately removing it, and cutting the barrel into pieces that are added, with the spirits, into a stainless steel tank. Variations in pressure are then used to move the alcohol in and out of the wood in a much faster and more aggressive method.

  • Bottles being filled at Cleveland Whiskey. Owner Tom Lix says that his happiest moment as a small business owner takes place every morning when he arrives at work and catches the scent of fresh bourbon wafting through the air vents.

  • Tom Lix pouring whiskey for customers at Market Avenue Wine Bar in Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Though Tom Lix, owner of Cleveland Whiskey, is not originally from Cleveland, he has adopted the city as his own and sees himself as an advocate for the city’s immense potential. When doing tests for the brand name, “people said that Cleveland stood for something that was authentic and genuine, that it was hardworking, that it was entrepreneurial, and that it was edgy,” he says.

  • Cleveland Whiskey has faced its fair share of skeptics, as dedicated whiskey drinkers tend to balk at the idea of changing such a revered process. Some of Lix’s proudest moments are when those skeptics try the whiskey and change their minds.

  • Customers at Cleveland Whiskey. Owner Tom Lix credits the city with having “a thriving entrepreneurship class and a lot of good support for companies.”

  • Tom Lix of Cleveland Whiskey hopes to continue to expand his small business in the years ahead and sees the growth of export markets as a great way to do this. Through Cleveland Whiskey, he also hopes to continue being an advocate for the city of Cleveland and the role that entrepreneurship plays in its development.

  • Tom Lix, owner of Cleveland Whiskey, was inspired to start experimenting with the process of making whiskey after reading about its growing demand in foreign countries. Whiskey is typically aged in barrels for around 10 years, and Wix felt that demand would soon exceed supply.

  • Tom Lix, owner of Cleveland Whiskey, making a test batch. After a few years of experimenting, Lix was able to cut the process of making whiskey from 10 years to 24 hours by using what is referred to as “disruptive technology.”

  • Bottles at Cleveland Whiskey. Due to their unique method of making whiskey, the company is able to experiment more with different types of wood and flavor. They recently released a bourbon made in black cherry wood that is the first of its kind.

  • Whiskey bottles are lined up on shelves at Cleveland Whiskey. The first bottle of Cleveland Whiskey was shipped in 2013, and it is now distributed in 13 states and some foreign countries. It even has the presidential stamp of approval - President Obama is a repeat customer.

Business Details

Proprietor: Tom Lix
1768 E 25th St Cleveland, OH 44114
PH: 216-881-8481 / Website
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