The father-son team behind Branch Water Bourbon have pulled the plug on their idea of opening a micro-distillery and tasting room at 300 Warren St. next to the relocated Coco’s Bistro.
In October 2012, Benjamin R. Jones of Butler Twp., who owns the Warren Street building and property with his son B. Matthew Jones, had applied for a distillery license from the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control, an initial step toward obtaining the necessary federal and state permits that would have allowed Jones to set up the micro-distillery and to serve samples as well as sell spirits by the bottle at the location.
But in an e-mail late Tuesday, Benjamin R. Jones said he changed his mind after researching the regulatory steps required of those who wish to open a micro-distillery.
“The alleged loosening of state regulations that got me interested in the micro-distillery were not as loose as advertised,” Jones said. “After initial applications were filed, there were more fees for background checks and several unadvertised hoops Ohio wants you to jump through.
“Then I discovered that not only equipment required inspection and acceptance, the state actually wanted to ‘approve’ my recipe. That’s when I got cold feet and started discussing the concept with the State of Kentucky. You know the old saying, ‘If it ain’t distilled in Kentucky, then it ain’t really bourbon.’”
Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, said many of a distillery’s regulations — including recipe review required for label approval — comes from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, not the state agency. Recent changes in Ohio law that allow micro-distilleries to offer samples and to sell a limited number of bottles directly to the public have set off a wave of craft distillery projects across the state.
Jones said last October that he has “an old family recipe” that belonged to his great-great grandfather, who emigrated from Wales to the U.S. and settled in Kentucky. “He was not a moonshiner, but he liked bourbon,” Jones said.