Minglewood Distilling Company

Rising From The Ashes

facade of a distilling company building

By: Gerald Dlubala

In the 1880s, in Northern Lawrence County, Ohio, James Mullins noticed an abundance of coal mines popping up. The area was rich in coal, and Mullins decided he wanted to cash in on the surging coal mining business, so he purchased a plot of land between the already-operating Beechwood and Oakwood mines to open his own coal mine. However, before opening, he was reminded by his new hires, many of whom were local and in need of work, that it would surely be bad luck to open and operate a coal mine without properly naming the mine, similar to the naming of ships before launch. Mullins’ wife mentioned that their coal mine settled nicely between the neighboring mines, mingling between them. That single comment launched the beginning of the Minglewood Coal & Ice Company that has now, well over 100 years later, become home to the Minglewood Distilling Company, a small-batch micro-distillery located in Wooster, Ohio.

  Mullins sold coal from his mine and ice procured from the nearby lake when frozen until 1921, when he added a second building on the property. It was heavily insulated with natural cork and used specifically as an ice factory, providing sanitary or electric ice made from distilled water.

  As the years passed, electric refrigerators and natural gas availability sharply reduced the vast need for purchased ice and coal. That demand reduction led to Minglewood Coal & Ice Company closing its doors in the 1950s. An auto repair business took over the smaller building, and the larger, cork-insulated building that once housed an ice factory was transformed into a beer and wine carryout store. The carryout liquor store sustained heavy fire damage in the 1970s and sat in ruin from that day forward, including a massive amount of burnt cork waste. The damage was so bad that the city had plans to demolish the building until current co-owner Mark Morrison purchased the land with the remains of the two buildings included. The city also halted demolition plans on what remained of the damaged buildings providing Morrison would start working on and improving the property immediately. This land purchase began the beginnings of the Minglewood Distilling Company. Morrison opted to keep the Minglewood name out of respect for the area’s history, a trait that continues throughout the distillery, its story and its products.

Carrying on the Minglewood Name

  “We still have two buildings on the property,” said Andrew Morrison, son of Mark and now co-owner and distiller. “The larger building is the original 1880s icehouse heavily damaged in the fire. The smaller building had at least a partial roof and some electricity availability, making it the more practical place to start the restorations and renovations. We started distilling in 2016 and opened to the public beginning in 2017.”

  “The larger building, the former ice plant, has been under renovation for the last four years. It took a lot longer, not only because of the extent of the fire damage but the cleanup included so much burnt cork insulation waste. It must’ve been at least five feet deep, and we actually began by digging it out by hand,” said Morrison. “Additionally, the pandemic slowed everything dramatically. But in May 2023, we were able to host our first event in the space, and it is now open as an event venue for weddings, get-togethers, parties, corporate events and anything else that would benefit from being held in a private space. The back half of the building now houses our production area, and the smaller building we originally used for production is now a permanent bottling facility. We had been rolling out temporary tables to use as our bottling solution, but now, with updated production facilities and available bottling solutions, we hope to increase production and extend our reach substantially.”

  Morrison tells Beverage Master Magazine that patrons will enjoy a rustic, classy space when visiting. The tasting room vibe is reminiscent of the 1940s and 1950s eras, featuring industrial décor with brick walls, concrete floors and exposed ceiling beams.

  “I wouldn’t call it trendy or hip,” said Morrison, “But rather, it’s a place with a throwback feel that reflects and showcases our pride in doing things in the older, traditional ways. Our customers can immediately sense they’re in for a quality experience with owners who care about their products and the visitor experience.

  The Morrisons currently use a stainless steel, hybrid reflux column pot still with a 500-gallon capacity that feeds into a 12-plate reflux column. Their current production schedule is distilling two to three batches a week from November through April, when the city water temperature is perfect for their needs.

  “We use a lot of city water for cooling processes, and in those winter months, the water temperature hovers around 40 degrees, which is perfect for our operation,” said Morrison. “Additionally, our equipment is big enough that, for now, we can make what we need for the year during those months. We generally produce a barrel out of each distillation, which comes to about 50 barrels a year, mostly bourbon and rye, and we distill corn whisky for our flavored whisky products. So, we do have the option to ramp up production rather quickly if and when needed.”

Reigniting the Area’s Historical

Passion with Rye

  After the Revolutionary War and in the 1800s, Germans immigrated to Ohio, including Wayne County. They brought rye from Europe with the intent of farming. Rye is a winter crop that fits extraordinarily well with Ohio’s temperature fluctuations and extremes, including the high freeze and thaw rates in the winter months. When a successful harvest came in spring, farmers found themselves with an excess of rye grains and looked for additional uses, leading to small pot stills on the farms to distill the grains and raise extra money. However, during the Civil War in the 1860s, excise taxes became a reality. As you can expect, farmers didn’t want to deal with the taxes, so many became moonshiners while local granaries became distilleries. Morrison also speculated that with the proximity of Route 30, a major thoroughfare running from the East Coast to Chicago, it’s not a far stretch to think that moonshining and moonshine distribution were also lucrative businesses.

  “Most people don’t remember that the Cedar Valley Distilling Company operated in Wooster between 1862 through the 1940s,” said Morrison. “We like their story and try to keep it alive in our tours with historically accurate retellings. The owner started with a grist mill, purchasing grain from local farmers and hiring additional local farmers and construction workers when other work was unavailable. The distillery was successful enough that they eventually moved to a larger facility, and from all accounts, they could produce 25 barrels a day during their peak production in the late 1800s.”

  “That’s simply unfathomable to me,” said Morrison. “If we ran 24/7 here, we could produce two barrels daily. Cedar Valley Distillery only made rye whisky, and they suddenly found themselves with a very large backstock when prohibition hit. They were able to get a license to distribute medicinal prescriptions, so their backstock ended up being distributed through prescription only. By the time prohibition ended, their backstock was dwindling away to almost nothing due to their prescription distribution and likely a bit of bootlegging. So, they started selling a 65 percent Cuban Rum liquor cut with six-month-old rye whisky aged with wood chips. We actually found some of the bottles over the years, and as you would expect, the concoction was horrible and definitely not a money-maker, causing the distillery to close its doors. Cedar Valley’s buildings and memories are now gone, and it’s rare to find someone in Wooster who remembers them, but we want to keep that history alive. Like them, we make our rye whisky using all local ingredients. We enjoy highly communicative and exceptional relationships with our farmers, who have become more like partners than suppliers. Our corn is grown about five minutes away, just outside of Wooster. Our rye comes from about 15 minutes away, in Dalton, which is eastern Wayne County, and our wheat comes from a co-op just north of us in Seville.”

Community and Partner-Suppliers

Are Critical

  Mark Morrison originally opened Minglewood Distillery with help from a friend that owned and operated wineries in the region. His son Andrew would work with them when he was available. In 2019, Andrew finished his studies, and when Morrison’s partner wanted to return to his true passion, meaning his wineries, the Morrisons bought him out. From that day forward, the father and son team became 50/50 partners, co-owners and distillers.

  “We’ve been using the same farmers for six years since beginning our distillery,” said Morrison. “We are fortunate to have no worries about the consistency and quality of our ingredients or products, and our communication couldn’t be better. Even when our suppliers had a bad year, causing lower overall yields, they told us they had a crop dedicated to us, so we shouldn’t worry. That type of communication and partnership is invaluable.”

  The future looks bright and tasty for Minglewood Distilling Company. Morrison tells Beverage Master that they are looking forward to increasing production and bottling capacity thanks to the updated availability of both buildings. They plan to bump up their bourbon production, eventually offering bottled-in-bond bourbon and rye selections and expanding the overall lineup with more variety and premium offerings.

  For those following the path to owning a distillery in a state that controls licensing, Morrison says that those future distillers should apply to get their license early. He waited, and because the process was a lengthy one, Minglewood initially was only allowed to distill and provide small samples (one ounce per person, per day, cut into quarter-ounce samples) to their patrons, which wasn’t enough for proper tastings to be held or sell their liquors by the bottle. Morrison said that selling cocktails is critical to the bottom line, so obtaining that serving license is important for customers to get to know your products and want to purchase them regularly. Minglewood Distilling Company’s best sellers have been their flavored offerings, with peach leading the way. It really took off in 2020 and hasn’t slowed. Their upcoming pickle whisky is set to be a hit, and a much-anticipated root beer whisky will be available this fall.

  In addition to being able to taste their product lineup at their distillery and tasting room, Minglewood Distillery offers a kitchen and full bar for service and menu offerings featuring meat and cheese boards.

To learn more about Minglewood Distilling Company and its products, visit:

Minglewood Distilling Company

437 East South Street

Wooster, Ohio, 44691

(330) 601-1600


Email This Post Email This Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *