PAINESVILLE, Ohio - The braintrust behind Seven Brothers Distilling Co. will look back at 2016 as a pivotal year. They targeted their future, added a major distributor, rebranded with an updated design and will be introducing new products next year.
This month, Heidelberg Distributing added the Painesville distillery to its portfolio, something acting CEO Bob Schenosky says is key to the company's growth. And in December, the distiller will hold an open house to welcome the public for tastes.
"Heidelberg has a distinct spirits area," he said. "For us being smaller, as a craft distiller, it made a lot of sense."
Schenosky praised Seven Brothers founder Kevin Suttman, who founded the distillery in 2010, for his approach.
"I think he was a little ahead of the curve for Cleveland at that point," Schenosky said. "He saw an opportunity to make something local and natural, and it fit into the region, this whole idea of farm to table, go local."
All but one of Seven Brothers' bottles uses Ohio products (the spiced rum being the sole holdout, and that will be reintroduced in 2017 with a new formula that will have some Ohio ingredients, Schenosky said.)
This year, the three-man team behind Seven Brothers - Schenosky, Suttman (youngest of seven brothers ) and John Lesnick, vice president of sales - sat down to plot the future. They came up with a question.
" 'We've got a terrific product,' " Schenosky recalls. " 'Now, how do we get it to the marketplace and brand it effectively?' "
Part of the answer lies in the deal with Heidelberg. The other solution came in a redesign, which Schenosky says results in a "more pronounced" look on shelves. The products Heidelberg will distribute include:
* Touchstone Wheat Vodka, a core vodka for the company.
* Seven Botanicals Gin, a silver-medal winner at the San Francisco Spirits Competition.
* Cinnamon Infusion Vodka, with natural cinnamon sticks.
* Hickory Smoked Whisky, a new product using Amish Country hickory prepared in house. "You get almost a sweet bourbon-like taste up front and on the back of the palate a smokiness taste from the hickory," Schenosky said.
Seven Brothers spirits are made with natural ingredients only - no artificial flavors or colors, he added.
For the holiday season, Seven Brothers is producing Espresso Infusion Vodka, distilled with locally roasted espresso beans.
Down the line, expansion might be in the works, including a continued presence at Progressive Field, and possibly Quicken Loans Arena.
"Spirits has been a growth market in Ohio," Schenosky said, "and we want to be part of that."
If you go
Seven Brothers Distilling Co.'s open house for the public will be 2-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. There will be a nominal fee, probably $5 for four tastes. (The distillery will have a bartenders-only event the following day.) Seven Brothers is at 7755 Brakeman Road, Painesville. Call 440-897-9311. It's about 35 miles east of downtown Cleveland. Take I-90 and get off at the Vrooman Road exit. Take Vrooman to Ohio 86 south, then go right on Brakeman.