#HomeGrownStories – Missy & Joe Duer
Missy and Joe Duer, both natives of Miami County, have deep roots that go back many generations. Today, the couple is bringing family and local history out of the past and into your liquor cabinet. Missy and Joe have reopened Missy’s family distillery in New Carlisle. Staley Mill Farm and Indian Creek Distillery use a family recipe for whiskey from 1820. They also reuse whiskey barrels to age locally harvested maple syrup. The couple offers tours of their distillery where guests learn about local history and the distilling process. The tour ends with an opportunity to sample their whiskey with their mixologist.
On living in Miami County:
Missy – We are both from Miami County. My family, the Staley’s, have a very rich history in the area. Many generations have lived on this farm since the early 1800s. I’m the sixth generation to live here.
Joe – My family came to Miami County from Bucks County, Pennsylvania around 1836. They purchased 640 acres from the government for a dollar and a quarter an acre. That was a wise move [laughs]. My ancestors were farmers and blacksmiths. I also have a direct relation to an ancestor that was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Missy – We love history!
Joe – I’m a lifelong Miami County resident except for a few years at college and so on and so forth. My family had a farm in the northern part Miami County. When Missy and I married we lived in a small house I had in that area for four years. Then we moved a mile up the road from here to another Staley farm. We raised our family there.
Missy – We say that our roots go deep here — so watch your ankles because they might grow up around you! We’re here to stay. We’ve never lived anywhere else.
On Staley Mill Farm and Indian Creek Distillery:
Missy – The distillery is a resurrection of what my family did here for 100 years. From 1820 to 1920 they made double copper pot whiskey. That’s the process we use today. We have my family’s original pot stills, equipment, and recipes. We’re lucky that they saved everything after Prohibition began in 1920. We decided about seven years ago to start the distillery back up. It seemed like the right thing to do on this farm.
On rye whiskey and the distillation process at Indian Creek Distillery:
Joe – Whiskey is America’s drink. People have been making it in America since before America was a country. The Scottish-Irish immigrated to this country by the thousands in the 1700 and very early 1800s. They brought the knowledge and skills of making rye whiskey with them. Our original recipe for rye whiskey is 65% rye, 20% corn and the remaining 15% is malted barley. That was a very common rye mash recipe in the day. It’s not a guarded secret: it’s still used by many people today. You can use different proportions of grain depending on what you’re making. You can even make rye whiskey from 100% rye. The grain used is what distinguishes the different types of whiskeys. Bourbon is a whiskey that consists primarily of corn.
As Missy mentioned we stay true to tradition with our process. We are the only distillery in the country working this way. Everything is original. The double copper pot stills, the location, and the water source. Our water is spring water. Water is very important in the production of whiskey. You need water with a high calcium content, no iron or run-off. That’s the water we have here. We sit on a very large aquifer and the water bubbles up through limestone which adds a lot of calcium.
The quality of the water is one of the reasons that Missy’s ancestors settled here. They were millers and they were distillers. Those trades were often companions to each other during that time. They would have recognized the good water here that would allow them to produce good whiskey.
Missy – We make true frontier whiskey and that makes us very unique. We work handcrafted, small batch and old school. This is what we’re all about. We’re very traditionalist in what we do. We want to preserve the history of the process.
The whiskeys produced at Indian Creek Distillery:
Missy – We have several different whiskeys, all made right here. Staley Rye Whiskey is a namesake for my family’s whiskey, that’s what they called it when they made it. We make an unaged rye whiskey called Elias Staley. It’s named in honor of my 5th great grandfather who started all this way back when. He was the first spirit, so to speak. We thought it would be appropriate that he would be the first to have a spirit named for him. We make bourbon called Andy’s Old Number Five. We also make a White Corn Whiskey which is an aged whiskey. We age the whiskey in 10-gallon barrels which speed up the aging process so it takes about six months. It produces a very nice smooth and enjoyable whiskey.
On the community response to Indian Creek Distillery:
Missy – People have been very excited about what we’re doing. For one thing, breweries and distilleries are the “in” thing right now. We didn’t know that when we got started and it’s not why we got started. We have people visit from all over Ohio and the US. We’ve had people come from out of the country. So the community response has been excellent.
On their distillery tours:
Joe – Every Saturday we offer guided tours of the distillery at 12 pm, 2 pm, 4 pm, and 6 pm. The tour consists of three parts. Missy does a segment on the family history. It’s a complicated history. A lot went on here and they did a lot of different things besides distilling. We do a segment on the distilling process. Then we come upstairs and we play a short video that PBS did here before we opened. Then, our guests come over to our tasting bar. We have a mixologist, a young lady who is very knowledgeable about whiskey. She leads everyone in a guided tasting flight of our products. The flight includes our four whiskeys and our Still-House Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup. We take our used whiskey barrels to the sugar camp and fill them with hot maple syrup right out of the vat. When then age them for about six weeks. It’s a very popular and versatile product. During the tasting of our whiskeys, you learn why they taste the way that they do. Our whiskeys have won medals in world and international tasting contests.
Missy – We take a lot of walk-ins but folks can also make reservations for the tour. We have people come while they’re on vacation and locals come back for another bottle once they’ve run out [laughs].
What they love most about Miami County:
Missy – Miami County is my home and it’s been my family’s home for over a hundred years. It has a wonderful past and holds so much for the future. There are lots of little, hidden gems. I love Tipp City. I have friends there and I used to have a business in Tipp City. It’s great for shopping and dining. Troy is ramping up and revitalizing its downtown. A hidden gem in West Milton is the Wertz’s Variety Store. We love it! It’s a fun, old-fashioned 5¢ and 10¢ store. There’s also the Pearson House Restaurant — we ate there today! We love Ludlow Falls and Charleston Falls. We have a precious little county here in Ohio with so many hidden gems. Some people have said that we’re a hidden gem too – we’re out here in the little “Appalachian hills” of Miami County. [laughs]
Joe – This is our home and has been our family’s home for many years. It will continue to be our home. Our children and grandchildren live in Miami County. We’re not city people! We were born and raised on the farm and we live on the farm now. I enjoy the wide-open spaces here. We are still within minutes of cities and villages, which makes it handy. We’re also not that far from the big city — Dayton. This is a great location – we love living here.
Their Miami County recommendations for out-of-town visitors:
Missy – Definitely visit Tipp City — there are great dining and shopping options. In Troy, you can visit the courthouse and see the beautiful square. Since I was born and raised in Elizabeth Township, I always recommend it. It’s a beautiful township, it’s actually on the National Register of Historic Places. It still has gorgeous vistas and landscapes — when you drive through you just say “Oh wow!” That’s home to me.
We go to the Fall Farm Fest at the Lost Creek Reserve & Knoop Agricultural Heritage Center. WACO Museum offers quite a few nice events throughout the year. Joe enjoys those because he’s interested in airplanes. There’s also the Tipp City Mum Festival. There are all sorts of things to do.
Joe – During the summer we have a lot of music here at the distillery. In the winter we have a few events, our Winter Warmer and our Christmas Open House. We always have music at our parties and events and we have food trucks here sometimes. We draw a pretty big crowd for those events.
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