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Aging Well

West Fork Whiskey Continues to Grow

Writer / Alesha McCarty
Photographer / Robby Berry

Did whiskey make them do it? For Blake Jones, West Fork Whiskey Company co-founder, the short answer is yes.

“We wanted to create an approachable Indiana-based whiskey,” Jones says.

Indiana was built for producing whiskey, he adds.

West Fork Whiskey

“Indiana has great corn and limestone water, and a great climate for aging whiskey,” Jones says. “We loved the spirit. We had a passion for it.”

West Fork WhiskeyThe co-founders, including Jones, who serves as president, as well as Julian Jones, head distiller, and David McIntyre, chief executive officer, had no previous experience in creating spirits aside from Julian’s background in microbiology. Their whiskey is a product of pure passion, hard work, and trial and error.

They rented a warehouse on the northwest side of Indy and some small equipment.

“We focused on what we could do differently as we developed our company, and honed our craft,” Jones says.

In 2015 the team officially started making whiskey and began growing the company. Then in 2017 they moved to the Kennedy-King neighborhood in Indianapolis, at their current location at 17th and Bellefontaine streets. Locals took to the delicious drinks and atmosphere.

Jones loves whiskey straight up and will usually reach for 80-proof Old Hamer. On grilling days he enjoys something with a higher proof.

Old Hamer is West Fork’s tribute to Indiana’s rich distilling heritage. The Hamer family happens to be from the same county as the co-founders in southern Indiana. Spring Mill State Park, formerly a village in the 1800s, was purchased by the Hamer family when they migrated from New York. The Hamer family took grain as a form of payment from local farmers and turned it into whiskey. Currently, Old Hamer is the only product they distribute and can be found in 10 surrounding states and many retail spaces in Indiana.

The line features an 80-proof bourbon, 100-proof single-barrel bourbon, cask-strength bourbon, 90-proof rye and cask-strength rye. The Hugh Hamer, selected from their finest stock of whiskey, focuses on secondary aging such as a port barrel or second barrel. When the community demanded canned cocktails, the West Fork team stepped up to the challenge with their Cold Hamer.

West Fork Whiskey

For a whiskey experience, stop by their tasting room and grab a cocktail from Jacob Cantu, the tasting room manager. The team develops cocktails based on flavors crafted from house-made syrups, fresh juices and house spirits. Cantu says the current menu is referenced as a “trick menu.”

“We’ve redefined how you perceive whiskey, discovering what whiskey can do and not just what you’ve previously known it as,” Cantu says.

West Fork has a collection of classics that remain on the menu, like their Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned, which starts with The Colonel bourbon, cherry demerara syrup, Angostura bitters, chipotle cacao bitters, an orange peel and a Luxardo cherry. The seasonal drinks change every quarter, with 15 to 20 carefully crafted cocktails. The P.S.L. starts with 2-Hour Delay corn whiskey, pumpkin puree, house marshmallow syrup, house oat milk, brown sugar and spices, and is topped with a toasted marshmallow. House favorites also include the Peanut Butter Whiskey, a thick and creamy concoction. They offer several mocktails, which are delicious thanks to house-made fresh syrups and fresh-pressed juices.

West Fork Whiskey

The trio recently announced plans for their next great adventure, a $10 million-plus, 35,000-square-foot agritourism facility in Westfield. This new space will offer fun for the whole family including a large event center, retail space, a restaurant featuring ingredients from local farms and Midwest flavors, a cocktail lounge, a speakeasy space, education space and production space. The outdoor space includes a large concert venue and a pond, as well as 150-plus outdoor seating that will be available for events and weddings. The team is hoping for a spring or summer opening in 2022. The new space is located on the northeast corner of 191 Street and Horton Road, across from Grand Park.

The current West Fork Whiskey team consists of 11 employees including the co-founders. With the new restaurant, bar and speakeasy, they expect to hire around 50 additional employees. If you’re looking for a chance to be part of the growth, stay tuned. For more info, visit westforkwhiskey.com.

West Fork Whiskey

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