News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Northeast Ohio Medical University

Hennes Paynter Communications

Area Agency on Aging 10B, Inc.


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Economy and Business




Exploradio - A new age for whiskey
A Cleveland entrepreneur enters the tradition-bound industry with a new process that ages whiskey in weeks rather than years
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
Tom Lix wants to put Cleveland on the map as a whiskey city. His experimental process turns traditional years of whiskey aging into weeks.
Courtesy of Jeff St.Clair
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Every now and then an innovation comes along that dramatically changes an industry.  Tom Lix thinks he has such an innovation for the whiskey industry. He’s a Boston transplant who’s using a new process that could put Cleveland on the map as whiskey producer.

In this week’s Exploradio: A new age for whiskey.

Exploradio - New aged whiskey

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:36)


(Click image for larger view.)

Quick-age process

The recipe for whiskey dates back to the Middle Ages.  Farmers could to reap the bounties of excess harvest  by distilling grains. In America, Bourbon whiskey is made from corn and other grains, then aged in charred oak barrels for as long as 12 years.  It’s a tradition-bound industry that entrepreneur Tom Lix says is ripe for innovation.

“They’ve been the doing the same things for hundreds of years and that’s fine. It’s worked; companies have made lots of profit.  … But now with the whiskey market growing so fast, and the idea that you have to make it faster, there is a market opportunity as well. So it’s a chance for technology to enter the picture and … it just came together all at once.”

Lix teaches entrepreneurship at Lake Erie College.  He’s out to demonstrate the power of innovation -- even in an industry that prides itself on doing things the old-fashioned way. He plans to cut the time it takes to produce aged whiskey from years to weeks.  He says his breakthrough came after long experimentation.

“In fact, I started this a number of years ago in my basement with a pressure cooker, mason jars, tubs of ice.”

Lix now experiments in his lab at the MAGNET incubator on East 25th Street in downtown Cleveland.  His whiskey is still aged with oak, but not in barrels.

“We’re building the second generation, but this is the first generation system: five gallon stainless steel tanks wrapped in copper coils that allow us to change the temperatures.”

Tubes run from the five-gallon tanks to water heaters, and a large chiller --  all controlled by a computerized system that allows Lix to heat and cool the alcohol inside the tanks.

 Also inside the tanks are strips of charred oak cut from used whiskey barrels. Lix’s innovation is speeding the extraction of flavoring chemicals from the oak using by changing the temperature and pressure inside his small whiskey kegs.

“By using pressure, we can make that wood work like a sponge. And you can imagine that sponge picking up a whole lot of alcohol and then letting it go, and then picking up a whole lot more.  (Ours is) the same process, a very natural process, but we’ve just learned to speed it up.”


The secret of whiskey's aroma

The fruits of his labors are all around us. Lix selects a gallon jar filled with dark amber liquid.

“I just opened up the top of this one.  You can smell…That’s a two-month-old product.”

The oak adds a complex aroma to the whiskey, creating its signature smell.  But Lix is not relying just on his nose to gauge success. 

Sujata Emani is director of research at Cleveland Whiskey, Tom Lix’s company.  She shows me a graph of a chemical analysis of their quick aged product.

The traditional practice of soaking alcohol in charred oak is what makes whiskey, whiskey.

“All the flavors, like vanilla and these kind of buttery flavors that you can get, all come from the wood and different pieces of the wood that chemically are broken apart when you burn it.”

Rather than letting time and nature extra these oak essences, Cleveland Whiskey enlists technology.

Disrupting whiskey production 

“We can make a wide variety of products because of this process, unlike a traditional distiller where there’s a 20-year development cycle. You’ve got to make something, put it in a barrel, wait ten years, and then you open it up and say, ‘Oh yeah that’s pretty good, let’s make some more.' Twenty years have passed until you have something available to the commercial public. With us it’s a matter of weeks or months.”

Tom Lix likes whiskey. But he’s really a tinkerer.

“I just like looking at industries that I think can be changed, that can be disrupted.  Taking an old process and applying science to it.  I’m not a chemist, but I remember my favorite toy was a chemistry set.  And I remember my father would get angry when I set our basement on fire. I’ve just always done those types of things.”

Whether the quick-aged whiskey succeeds in the market place is up to consumers.  Lix says they could be buying Cleveland Whiskey as soon as this summer.

I’m Jeff St.Clair with this week’s Exploradio. 


Related Links & Resources
Cleveland Whiskey website


Related WKSU Stories

Exploradio - Obesity and memory
Monday, December 12, 2011

Exploradio - The dinosaur revolution
Monday, December 31, 2012

Exploradio - The art of the skull menders
Monday, October 31, 2011

Listener Comments:

Cleveland Whiskey has a new Facebook page, if you want more info or keep up on them. https://www.facebook.com/clevelandwhiskey


Posted by: clEvLndGal (Cleveland) on September 27, 2012 3:09AM
Hi Tom,

What a surprise!!! I am happy you are doing well.
You and your brothers always with something new.
Can we get your new whiskey right here, in Brazil?

Congratulations!

Neusa


Posted by: Neusa Silva Lix (São Paulo/ SP) on February 20, 2012 2:02AM
It's Great Innovative.When It comes to India.Where It available In USA.


Posted by: k.Janardhan Reddy (HYDERABAD
Very innovative. Where can I get it ?

-P


Posted by: patrick donnelly (United States) on February 13, 2012 12:02PM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

Brunswick will turn tornado sirens back on after bad weather
Put the sirens back after the storms, in the mean time just sit and wait for another tornado . That's Brunswick for you lived here 44 years and it has always be...

Oberlin council may rescind its gun ban, but is considering alternatives to keep it in effect
Seems that the only scared, paranoid people are the anti-gun people, really.

Massive pipeline planned to pump Ohio shale products to Texas
This needs stopped. Ohioans pay the price, putting up with pollution, leaks, explosions, and the top one percent profit from exporting fracked product to China.

National Weather Service confirms three tornado touchdowns yesterday
I was driving back from a party and was caught in the middle of a large thunderstorm. The hail and lightning were a whole light closer than usual, is something ...

Another Indians season opens with Chief Wahoo under scrutiny
The picture you have for Robert rocha is not him. He has long hair. No idea who that guy is in that picture

Portman predicts McDonald's confirmation, but says it won't be easy
I sent the following note to Senator Blumenthal after reading commentary from yesterday's hearing: Senator, You certainly have the right to ask Mr. McDonald que...

Seven minutes changed everything, but what changed Ashford Thompson?
He shot the guy four times in the head. I have never been that drunk or mad, and I have been through it. Shoot a guy once is bad, maybe a mistake, shoot a guy f...

First cricket farm in the U.S. opens in Youngstown
I am interested in cricket flour to replace soy flour in a low carbohydrate diet. As soon as you have cricket flour available for the average person, please le...

New process starts digesting sludge in Wooster
Awesome! When do our sewage rates decrease accordingly?

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University