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Conversations with Melissa Duer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Duer. 

Hi Melissa, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today.
I am the 6th generation to live on my family’s historic Staley Mill Farm, located in Miami County, Ohio just north of Dayton. I have always known that I would live here one day (every generation before me has made this their home), but I had no idea that I would one day own a distillery! 

Here’s some history- my ancestors were distillers and distilled here on the farm from 1820 until 1920, when Prohibition shut them down. 100 years of a commercial Frontier distillery, selling to locals, groceries, saloons, Civil War soldiers and medicine men, and whoever else traveled by the StillHouse. 3 Generations made their livelihood from whiskey as well as cutting and selling lumber (we have an 1820 sawmill) and from grinding grain into flour (we have Ohio’s oldest original intact Grist Mill circa 1818). So, this was a busy Pioneer Agricultural/Industrial Complex (as the historians call this farmstead today). Prohibition ended in 1933, and for the next 70 some years a distillery could NOT be built in Ohio. It was “prohibited”! That law changed in the early 2000s, and with the passing of my mother in 2007 (who had been living at the farm), it gave my husband Joe and I the opportunity and the idea to resurrect my family’s storied distilling history by building an Artisan Farm Distillery right here on the same farm, using the same limestone water, the same Rye mash bill and most importantly, the very same copper pot stills that those 3 generations of distillers before us had used! My great grandfather George Washington Staley saved the stills from the Prohibition Agents and hid them in the top of the barrel warehouse where they remained until Joe, and I brought them back to life in 2011! So, with a wing and a prayer and no knowledge of the industry we built a distillery in 2010 (the 12th distillery in Ohio at the time), began handcrafting whiskey the true old-fashioned way with those 2 old copper pot stills, and here we are 10 years later with a stable of 8 spirits: 

Elias Staley White Rye Whiskey 

Staley Rye Whiskey (aged) 

Andy’s Old No.5 Bourbon 

Dandy John’s White Corn Whiskey 

1820 Bourbon 

Seven Staleys Bourbon 

American BondHouse Bourbon 

Gypsy Gin 

It’s been quite a journey, filled with tears and laughter, while we climbed a huge learning curve to get to where we are today. I like to say that we’ve finally “come

of age, turned 21, so to speak,” because we did it! We are no longer in those childlike days/years that were harder than we imagined. 

As for today and for the tomorrows of our children and grandchildren, we are building the Staley Sample Room, a Prohibition-style cocktail bar at the south end of the distillery. One more step, one more dream wrapped in faith to allow tradition, history, family legacy, and the Staley Mill Farm and Indian Creek Distillery to live on into the future, perhaps for another 200 years…

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Not a smooth road, a bit bumpy—-we had to learn many regulations pertaining to the Alcohol Industry. Not only Federal laws and regs but Ohio’s as well. Then, because we had never distilled before, we had to learn how_to_distill, the barreling and aging process, the perfection of flavor and tasting notes, and so much more! 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am the Dreamer, the Vision of the Brand, storyteller, graphic designer, and I manage social media and so much more!!!! I am the Mistress of Distillation! LOL! I dream and create the labels for each of our spirits, telling the history of the people, the place one bottle at a time. I am not a computer graphic artist, have no training, so I literally cut (with scissors) and paste (with scotch tape and glue) and write the words for a label, for a marketing brochure, etc. and turn it over to a true graphic artist who then takes my heartfelt designs and brings them to life on the computer and then to paper. 

I also create the spaces within our distillery, the decor, the feeling of the place, representing the history yet making everything inviting (down to the very last detail) so our visitors may feel very welcome; as if they are visiting our home which they are! 

What matters most to you? Why?
Preserving the history here. Telling the incredible true story of a family that came to America in 1737 from Switzerland. About 3 Brothers who came to Ohio in the early 1800s from Frederick Maryland, to live & manifest their personal dream. And how for one brother, Elias (my 3rd great grandfather), created a legacy and a legend that still exists today right here on my old history-filled farm. 8 Generations later, and HE still lives on…in so many ways! 

Very very important to me…

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Missy Duer

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