NEWTOWN — A small town distillery in Fountain County is making big waves in the whiskey industry.
Old 55 Distillery, located just across the Montgomery-Fountain county line in Newtown, nearly swept the micro-distillery division of the International Whisky Competition for 2020.
Taking home the top prize for their American Single Malt at the competition — held this year as a private judging event at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado — the Fruits family distillery also won second place for their Single Barrel Bourbon Bottled-in-Bond whiskey and third place for their Single Barrel American Single Malt.
Furthermore, they won Best Micro-Distillery — production facilities that produce fewer than 150,000 bottles annually.
“All credit here is due to my dad,” Old 55 Distillery CEO Jason Fruits said. “He gave us all the best tools.”
Owned by Jeff and Lee Ann Fruits, the distillery is operated by Jason, Ashley, Aaron and Chris Fruits. The family team utilizes German-made still equipment to produce “the best whiskey on the planet.”
“The difference between what we do and what other people do is that most people source (ingredients for) their whiskey,” Fruits said. “They buy it from one of the big four producers and they stick a label on it and say, ‘This is my grandpa’s recipe,’ which is totally false. That’s the industry as we know it.”
But Old 55 receives all of its ingredients — corn, wheat, barley — from a farm just outside New Richmond in Montgomery County. Once received, all milling, distilling and bottling is done on site at the distillery.
“It’s a family-estate product,” Fruits said. “It’s malted by the Sugar Creek Malting Company — a family story like we are; we’re all connected — they malted and smoked the grain for the world’s best American single malt. It’s a 100-percent Indiana product, which is actually what makes it so unique to single malts. Nobody’s ever done it with everything (sourced) in North America, let alone Indiana, and that’s how we did it.”
The family established the Newtown business in 2013 and began operations in 2014 when copper and stainless steal equipment arrived from Kothe Distilling Technologies in Germany.
Referred to as the Ferrari of distilling equipment, the distillery has been producing award-winning bourbons, single malts and more for nearly six years, which is vital to achieving aged products like the nearly four-year-old gold medal winning single malt, Fruits said.
Forbes magazine covered the event and published results on its website (www.forbes.com) on June 30. Old 55 Distillery was listed multiple times as it nearly swept its division.
“That’s how big of a competition it was,” Fruits said. “Whiskey drinkers will follow that, and the single malt is sold out. It’s gone. As soon as we had that (in Forbes) we had people calling in from all over the country wanting to buy that. That’s a $150 bottle of single malt.”
Fruits stressed that their products are thanks to the collective efforts of everyone in the family, and said he enjoys being part of the family business.
“I call him an evil genius because if you would’ve ever told me I’d be back in Newtown, I would’ve punched you in the mouth. I was never coming back,” Fruits said. “I live in the Whitestown-Zionsville area, and he has us all back in Newtown and it’s pretty awesome.
“None of us would change it. We all love it.”
The Fruits family opens Old 55 Distillery to the public from noon to 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and again from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays, providing tours and offering samples. The distillery also operates as a storefront where bottles can be purchased.
For more information, follow Old 55 Distillery on Facebook and Instagram, or visit www.old55distillery.com.