Most distillers tout the patient aging of their whiskeys, but Cleveland Whiskey has decided to pick up the pace. The Ohio company has developed a process to make whiskey in as little as six days. Its method could be a handy solution to the shortage of new oak barrels that keeps whiskey production from rising in tandem with demand. Rather than aging its whiskey in an oak barrel for years, as other distillers do, Cleveland Whiskey pours it into a barrel for just a brief moment (simply to comply with regulations on what can be marketed as "whiskey"), and then empties it into a stainless steel pressure-capable tank. The barrel is then cut into carefully measured pieces and, through what founder Tom Lix says is a proprietary process that involves frequent pressure, vacuum variations, and oxygen infusion, creates the taste of a much older whiskey. The result? One reviewer told Thrillist.com, "It's got a really pronounced corn smell and a flavor that's more like a white whiskey, and a hotter finish—a little more burn."

Photograph by Matt Eich for Businessweek.com

Most distillers tout the patient aging of their whiskeys, but Cleveland Whiskey has decided to pick up the pace. The Ohio company has developed a process to make whiskey in as little as six days. Its method could be a handy solution to the shortage of new oak barrels that keeps whiskey production from rising in tandem with demand. Rather than aging its whiskey in an oak barrel for years, as other distillers do, Cleveland Whiskey pours it into a barrel for just a brief moment (simply to comply with regulations on what can be marketed as "whiskey"), and then empties it into a stainless steel pressure-capable tank. The barrel is then cut into carefully measured pieces and, through what founder Tom Lix says is a proprietary process that involves frequent pressure, vacuum variations, and oxygen infusion, creates the taste of a much older whiskey. The result? One reviewer told Thrillist.com, "It's got a really pronounced corn smell and a flavor that's more like a white whiskey, and a hotter finish—a little more burn."

Photograph by Matt Eich for Businessweek.com

How to Make Whiskey in Six Days

A Cure for the Whiskey Shortage?
A Cure for the Whiskey Shortage?

Most distillers tout the patient aging of their whiskeys, but Cleveland Whiskey has decided to pick up the pace. The Ohio company has developed a process to make whiskey in as little as six days. Its method could be a handy solution to the shortage of new oak barrels that keeps whiskey production from rising in tandem with demand. Rather than aging its whiskey in an oak barrel for years, as other distillers do, Cleveland Whiskey pours it into a barrel for just a brief moment (simply to comply with regulations on what can be marketed as "whiskey"), and then empties it into a stainless steel pressure-capable tank. The barrel is then cut into carefully measured pieces and, through what founder Tom Lix says is a proprietary process that involves frequent pressure, vacuum variations, and oxygen infusion, creates the taste of a much older whiskey. The result? One reviewer told Thrillist.com, "It's got a really pronounced corn smell and a flavor that's more like a white whiskey, and a hotter finish—a little more burn."

Photograph by Matt Eich for Businessweek.com
Fermentation and Distillation
Fermentation and Distillation

The four-day mashing and distilling process at Cleveland Whiskey is done similarly to the larger distilleries with the exception of equipment size. Pictured, Cleveland Whiskey's 500-liter stainless steel and copper still.

Photograph by Matt Eich for Businessweek.com
Barreling
Barreling

Charred American white oak barrels contain young bourbon distillate before the pressure-aging process. Instead of putting the spirit in a new oak barrel for 4-12 years, like other distillers do, Cleveland Whiskey stores it only briefly.

Photograph by Matt Eich for Businessweek.com
Pressure-Aging Process
Pressure-Aging Process

After the spirit spends a small amount of time barreled, it's emptied into a stainless steel pressure-capable tank. Here, carefully cut pieces of the barrel are added and Cleveland Whiskey's proprietary pressure-aging process begins. Assistant Distillery Manager Jim Waltz prepares a new run through the process.

Photograph by Matt Eich for Businessweek.com
Sight Glass
Sight Glass

During the pressure-aging process, the whiskey's color changes, visible through this sight glass on the system. This is not found at a traditional distillery.

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Aging
Aging

Interior view of the Cleveland Whiskey distillery with a fleet of aging tanks. Founder Tom Lix usually has three tanks running round the clock, seven days a week.

Photograph by Matt Eich for Businessweek.com
The Founder
The Founder

Tom Lix, founder and chief executive of Cleveland Whiskey, at the company's downtown location. "In a time when traditional manufacturers can't keep up with demand, where Knob Creek runs out and Maker's Mark tries to water down their product, the industry is stuck with processes that simply can't scale," he wrote in an e-mail. "You can't crank up production like corn flakes or computer parts. Indeed, Cleveland Whiskey is the only ‘just-in-time’ manufacturer of whiskey in the world."

Photograph by Matt Eich for Businessweek.com
Filtering and Bottling
Filtering and Bottling

Lastly, the spirits are filtered, bottled at the distillery, then immediately loaded onto pallets and shipped to warehouses in Ohio, Tennessee, and Chicago.

Photograph by Matt Eich for Businessweek.com