Craft Distillery Owner Helped Change Indiana Law

GNAW BONE – In honor of Women’s History Month, WRTV is spotlighting local women who are leading the way in their field and making a difference in our communities. For one Brown County business owner, her curiosity and determination helped create an entirely new industry in Hoosier State.

Behind the bar, Susan Spagnuolo gathers her tools: a knife, a lemon, a bottle of bourbon, simple syrup, bitters and peach juice.

“It’s called a bourbon peach smash,” Spagnuolo explains, squeezing lemon into a mason jar. “We were talking about how you introduce women to whiskey, that’s a great way to introduce women to whiskey, ya!”

Spagnuolo’s husband was the house bourbon drinker and she was enjoying a glass of wine, but while vacationing in the Carolinas nearly 11 years ago, the couple stumbled upon a small craft moonshine distillery.

The Columbus couple thought of nearby Nashville, IN and how it’s teeming with tourists and already home to a decent amount of booze tourism from wine tastings and breweries.

“We thought it would be pretty cool in Brown County knowing the history of moonlight that was prevalent here in Brown County,” Spagnuolo said. “What would it take to open a small craft distillery in Brown County?

It was then that they reached their first roadblock. Craft distillation was not legal in the state of Indiana at the time, as it is a state-by-state law. But Spagnuolo didn’t give up and she reached out to her local senator.

She soon met two other distiller hopefuls at the time who were already working to change state law, who now run Starlight Distillery and Cardinals Spirits.

“Kind of as a group we got together, and it took us about two and a half years to get that law changed in Indiana, but in 2013 craft distilling became legal in Indiana,” Spagnuolo said.

Spagnuolo opened the Bear Wallow Distillery in Gnaw Bone, Indiana, just steps from State Road 46. The distillery offers award-winning bourbons and a variety of flavored moonshines. Now that the pandemic is winding down, touring is back on and they are gearing up to release several new products.

“I mean we’re an agritourism company; we use 100 percent Indiana beans,” Spagnuolo said. “We have 6 aged products. Our Gnaw Bone Bourbon is our best seller. We have a maple-finished Bourbon that won 2019 Spirit of the Year at the Indiana State Fair.”

As a female distillery owner, Spagnuolo says she enjoys finding new ways to introduce women to whisky.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the number of women who are very familiar with whiskey and enjoy whiskey,” Spagnuolo says, topping the cocktail with peach juice. She screws the lids of the mason jars and shakes the cocktail. She explains that this cocktail contains an ounce and a half of their 100 proof bourbon, but for someone less familiar with the spirit, they would never know.

“People think, oh a woman in the liquor business, that’s pretty rare,” Spagnuolo said. “And it’s.”

But as one of the first craft distillery owners in the state, which now has nearly 50 craft distilleries, she says she tries to help other business owners who are getting started by answering all the questions. questions she has to help them get started in the industry.

“So now when someone asks me that question, I can direct it,” Spagnuolo said. “It doesn’t take them as long to figure that out as it may have taken me to figure it out.”

Bear Wallow is gearing up to launch new products they’ve been working on during the pandemic, including a Hickory-finished rye whiskey, a Bourbon barrel-aged rum, and a Port-finished whiskey.
To schedule a visit, find their spirits, and learn more about the Bear Wallow Distillery at Gnaw Bone, visit their website.

To visit more craft distilleries across the state, Check out Indiana Grown’s tour.