451 Spirits launches with rum and apple whiskey

Written by on February 16, 2016 in Liquor - 1 Comment

451 Spirits

There’s a new distillery in town — and while we’re often writing about some new brewery, it’s not often a distillery debuts. 451 Spirits emerged last week joining Middle West Spirits, Mill Street Distillery, Veriano Spirits and Watershed Distillery as one of only a handful of distilleries in Central Ohio.

The new venture is owned by David Chew, Chad Kessler, and Paolo Rosi, who also owns Via Vecchia Winery. Initial plans for the distillery involved utilizing space at Via Vecchia, but water supply among other issues prevented that location from working. The distillery and its 200 gallon copper pot still instead ended up at an old car wash in Clintonville, located at 590-D Oakland Park Avenue. 451 Spirits launched with two products: Dear Johnny and Writer’s Block.

For Dear Johnny, an smoked apple flavored whiskey, Chief Distiller Chad Kessler drew inspiration from Islay’s smokey scotches. His American whiskey is re-distilled using smoked apples and uses a blend of rye, oats, unmalted barley, malted barley, and two types of roasted barley in the grain bill.

451 Spirits_Dear Johnny

“I originally had an idea of basically making a whiskey but replacing part of the water with apple juice so it’d be like an apple brandy-whiskey hybrid, but what I ran into with the regulations was that it didn’t fit anywhere, because it couldn’t be [classified as] whiskey, and it’s not apple brandy, so it’d just end up in the distilled spirits specialty aisle and probably die there because no one knows what to make of that stuff,” said Kessler.

Their second spirit a rum flavored with mint and lime called Writer’s Block.. Kessler said most spiced rums use the same spices: clove and cinnamon. Their mint-and-lime flavors are intended to mirror a Mojito.

“If you look on the shelves, locally nobody’s doing a rum,” said Rosi. “Everyone does whiskey, everybody does flavored vodkas. It’s wide open for us on rum. In fact when we went to the liquor board control presentation to get the products finally registered, one of the analyst’s first comments when she realized it was a rum was ‘Oh thank god, not another flavored vodka.'”


Both spirits feature bold, bright artwork. Kessler, who is also an artist, worked with local artist Mike Martin for the label artwork design, which Blue Label Digital Printing in Lancaster produced.

“So many liquors, especially whiskey, use earth tone labels and old dead white guy names,” said Kessler. “The whiskey is already brown, I don’t need the label to be brown, too. I want something to pop and stand out and be creative, like beer labels.” (sidebar: the face depicted on Dear Johnny bears a striking resemblance to Kessler, though apparently it is Johnny Appleseed.)

451 Spirits is currently awaiting label approval for an absinthe, which they hope to release in May.

“We’re going to use apple brandy for the absinthe base,” said Kessler. “Most absinthe use a very neutral spirit so we’re doing something a little bit different. I worked hard on the herb recipe to make it so it’s not just all anise, it’s more floral and balanced.”

The distillery is not opening with a tasting room or gift shop, but may add one in the future.

“A lot of new distilleries have a tasting room, a bar, and all that kind of stuff, we skipped all that, focusing on the product instead of that marketing aspect,” said Chew. “We’re still in a dry area so we would have to go through voter approval to add a tasting room now that we’re up and running, but I don’t think that will be an issue when we get to that point.”

451 Spirits will host a launch party on Sunday, February 28 at Little Rock Bar with samples of both spirits, comparative whiskey flights, and live music. If you want to sample their spirits sooner, they will be available this Thursday at an open house at Via Vecchia, and are now on shelves at select area liquor stores. Dear Johnny retails for $46.95; Writer’s Block for $24.95.

About the Author

Cheryl Harrison. Editor of Drink Up Columbus. Co-Founder of the Columbus Ale Trail.

One Comment on "451 Spirits launches with rum and apple whiskey"

  1. Eric Burton May 2, 2021 at 8:22 PM · Reply

    This is easily in line with some of the worst whiskey I’ve ever had. Save the money, or just buy Jameson.

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