Roughly a decade ago, David McIntyre and Blake Jones looked around at all the great bourbon and whiskey being made directly to the south of the state, and they scratched their heads.
“We said, ‘Why is no one doing this in the state of Indiana other than a couple of players?’” McIntyre says. They got to talking and made a plan to share their interpretation of smooth whiskey with the world. In 2015 the pair added a third Co-Founder and Head Distiller, Julian Jones, and opened West Fork Whiskey Co., intent on creating great Indiana whiskey with spirits that are 100% Indiana, from grain to glass.
“As Hoosiers we are approachable, down to earth and can have a sweet tooth,” Jones says. “That’s certainly the way we wanted to make our whiskey. And we wanted the experience to be approachable and interactive for our guests.”
Part of what makes West Fork Whiskey Co. so unique is that they are one of only a few distilleries in the state that focus exclusively on whiskey from a craft perspective.
“We do our best to highlight Indiana agriculture as much as we can,” Jones says. That means utilizing local grain, most of which comes from a small family farm in Lebanon called Sugar Creek Malt Co. “What makes us special is the combination of utilizing Hoosier agricultural products – the grain – but also creating a unique, approachable, Indiana-esque whiskey experience,” Jones adds.
Now they are opening a second location – this one an agritourism facility – located across from Grand Park. It’s been an idea in the making for more than seven years as it became clear that they needed more space than what their Indianapolis location could hold.
In searching for a second location, McIntyre and Jones looked all over the state and were thrilled when they learned that the Grand Park area was a viable option.
“We found the right partner and the right landowners,” McIntyre says. “Plus, this is simply an amazing location. Grand Park sees multiple millions of visitors per year, and we hope our facility will see hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. There’s lots of synergy.”
Life took a pause when COVID hit, but they finally broke ground in July of 2021 on a 30,000-square-foot facility, making it one of the largest craft whiskey distilleries in the country.
The other half of the family-friendly facility is customer oriented and includes a 4,000-square-foot restaurant with seating for 300, as well as multiple cocktail bars, a 5,000-square-foot event center, retail space, and an education center that offers tours and classes on cocktail making.
“It’s a true tourism destination where you can really understand the process of making whiskey, from taking the great corn we make here in the state of Indiana from the farmer all the way to the bottle,” Jones says.
Many guests love to come in and enjoy a whiskey neat, straight or on the rocks. Others, however, want to try an innovative cocktail.
“Currently there aren’t a ton of options for food and beverage right at Grand Park,” McIntyre says. “If you’re at Grand Park for the whole day, we will give visitors another outlet – a place to go to get out of the sun, away from the field or training camp, and have a great meal, cocktail or glass of wine – whatever fits your mood.”
West Fork was rated by Indy Star as having one of the best old-fashioned cocktails in the city, and the drink is their number-one seller. There are always five to 10 old-fashioned offerings on the menu.
“We task our bar team to push the envelope of what people think of when they think of a whiskey cocktail,” Jones says. “One even has glitter in it. If folks are looking for a unique craft cocktail experience, we have one of the best, not just in the city, but in the state.”
Though whiskey is their main focus, they will also sell beer and wine, offering something for everyone’s taste.
“We want to have something that everyone can enjoy,” Jones says. “A lot of folks who come into our establishment and don’t like whiskey are surprised when they find a cocktail here that they enjoy.”
West Fork was named Indy Star’s best new bar, and voted 15th best whiskey bar in the U.S. by Yelp. They have won double golds, golds and platinums from spirit competitions. Two years ago they were crowned best craft whiskey in the country at an international spirits competition. In addition, their whiskeys have been rated above 90 points by Wine Enthusiast Magazine and The Tasting Panel Magazine, which is a level considered “outstanding” in terms of a whiskey’s superior character and style.
“In addition to making award-winning whiskey, we have created an award-winning bar experience that is fun for everyone,” Jones says. “We sell joy, in my opinion.”
Through the next several months, the West Fork team has plans to not only broaden their restaurant experience, perhaps offering brunch, but also offer more educational experiences in terms of tours and classes.
“We will get production fully up and running so folks can really see what we’re trying to do,” McIntyre says, adding that they plan to host seasonal festivals since they have a total of 24 acres of land. “We’d like to hold some unique festivals and experiences for the community.”
The public can find West Fork products and Old Hamer (one of the brands they own) at a number of retailers in Westfield including Big Red Liquors, Meijer and Kroger.
“To take this company from where we started in 2015 to where it is now is a huge point of pride for us,” McIntyre says. “We’re so happy that we’ve helped put Indiana on the map as a large-scale whiskey producer.”
Look for the new facility to open in July or August at 10 East 191st Street in Westfield. In the meantime, come see them at 1660 Bellefontaine Street in Indianapolis. For more information, call 317-672-7468 or visit westforkwhiskey.com.
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