Good to the Last Drop

Unscrew the lid on a jug of Cleveland Whiskey smoker chips and take a whiff. There’s so much whiskey in there you could almost serve it over ice. Instead, use the white oak chips over a gas or charcoal fire for smoky, bourbon-y meats, seafood, and vegetables.

“Some of the other big whiskey brands sell these whiskey chips,” says Cleveland Whiskey director of operations Craig Niess. “Ours has more whiskey in them because the whiskey goes deeper into the wood with our process.”

The bourbon distillery and finisher that incorporated five years ago and sold its first bottles early last year, is located in the MAGNET Incubator off Payne Avenue near downtown Cleveland. It has developed a proprietary method for producing its smooth, rich liquor in just days rather than a decade or more, as most high-end bourbons require.

“We put raw whiskey with cut-up pieces of wood barrels and apply pressure to it. Then it squeezes the wood like a sponge, so the whiskey goes further into the wood and is extracted over and over,” Niess explains. What’s left either is bottled or cut up and packaged into six-liter plastic jugs.

Right now, the chips are available for $11.95 directly through the distillery and at a handful of local outlets, including the Hearth Shop in Westlake; the Fireplace Shoppe in Northfield; Heat Exchange Hearth & Patio Shoppe in North Ridgeville; the Sun Plum Market in Willoughby; and Embers, with locations in Mentor, Solon, and North Olmsted. As the distillery expands, the jugs should pop up in other retail locations throughout the city.

If you’ve never barbecued with smoker chips before, the process can seem intimidating. But it’s simple, really, and the folks over at Cleveland Whiskey are nice enough to include instructions right on the label. Soak in water, toss on the fire, and savor the flavor. Whiskey and barbecue: now for locavores.

Find out more at or call 216.881.8481.