Watershed Bourbon

85 Unique

Using a pot still and a non-traditional mash bill containing spelt, Watershed bourbon is a nice deviation from the standard bourbon profile. It feels a bit like bourbon's take on Irish Whiskey.

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What it is

While there have been a number of craft distilleries open in the past 3 years thanks to the burgeoning popularity of America’s Native Spirit. Watershed, in Columbus, OH, predates the mad rush of new producers by a couple of years, beginning distillery operations in 2012. That’s not all that separates them from the crowd, though. Eschewing the more popular copper column stills, Watershed uses a 60 gallon pot still to create their whiskey, distilling each batch twice before barreling. And there’s more. On the bourbon side, they don’t use the traditional corn-rye-barley formula. They also don’t use the popular corn-wheat-barley formula. They don’t even use the standard 4-grain niche formula of corn-wheat-rye-barley that some smaller distilleries use to separate themselves from the pack. No, they use corn, wheat, rye, and a combination of barley and spelt. What is spelt? Good question. Spelt, often called “hulled” or “dinkle” wheat, is a subspecies of wheat that is rarely used in distilling outside a few vodka makers in Poland and some German beers. But it has been traditionally grown in central Ohio, making it a common “local” crop to Columbus.

Watershed Bourbon has no age statement, and is not listed as “straight” bourbon. However, I am told this batch (I’m relatively sure this one is batch 0069, but the handwriting on the label is a little tough to read and it could be “oreo”) is 4 years old. This bourbon is aged on-site in Columbus in traditional #5 char 53-gallon barrels from Speyside Cooperage in Jackson, OH. It is bottled at 47% ABV, or 94 proof.

Watershed Bourbon Stats
  • Photo credit: Watershed Distillery

    Producer: Watershed Distillery, Columbus OH

  • ABV: 47% (94º)
  • Batch: 0069
  • Mash Bill: Not Stated (reportedly 60% Corn, 35% Combo of wheat and rye, 5% combo of Barley and Spelt)
  • Barrel Char Level: #5 (Speyside Cooperage)
  • Age: Not Stated (the producer tells me this batch is 4 years)
  • Availability: Available in Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Georgia, New York, New Jersey & New Hampshire


Watershed is remarkably dark for a four year old whiskey- credit the high barrel char for that. It is medium brown with amber notes.


Photo credit: Watershed Distillery

Ccorn stands out as the immediate centerpiece of the nosing experience, but there is a buttery sweetness beneath that that smacks of the pot still process.  It is followed by grassy cereal grains and cinnamon.


True to the nose, the palate first gets a strong dose of corn. This is followed by a very strong sensation of oats and grassy grains down the center of the palate. There is a sweetness on the perimeter of the tongue that reminds me of honey and gingerbread.


This finishes relatively dry with only a few lingering notes of grain.


This is a very interesting sip. I’m not sure what my expectations were, but this isn’t a traditional tasting bourbon. The combination of the pot still and the unique mash bill makes this taste a lot more like bourbon’s take on Irish Whiskey with the grain forward-flavors combined with sweet corn.  It isn’t harsh, but the heavy corn gives it a slightly immature taste. It’s not the same traditional oak and vanilla flavors you’d get from more traditional bottlings despite the high char levels of the barrels- perhaps that’s due to aging in the slightly more temperate climate of central Ohio rather than in Kentucky. It’s unique, like its production process. It might throw off a lot of traditional purists due to that, but it might also be the perfect gateway for those who are coming to bourbon from other whiskey formats- namely Irish whiskey or low/non-peated Scotch.

ModernThirst.com Score: 85 out of 100 points.

What does that score mean?

*A sample of Watershed Bourbon was provided to ModernThirst by the producer with no strings attached.  The thoughts and opinions in this review are our own.


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About Author

Bill is the Co-Founder, Editor-in Chief, and official Bourbon-o-Phile for ModernThirst.com, and Founder and Chief Blending Officer for Four Gate Whiskey Company. He is a native of Louisville, KY in the heart of Bourbon Country. He attended the University of Kentucky in the mid to late 1990s. He has also been published on Liquor.com. He has conducted various bourbon and whiskey tastings in cities across the country, and consulted for multiple national labels. He is married with two daughters, and lives in east Louisville. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BillStraub and email him at Bill@ModernThirst.com.

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