If you find yourself in downtown Minerva, stop in at H&H Distillery, a storefront business where rum and vodka are made. In fact, you can sample Uncle Higgins Olde Fashion Rum and Uncle Higgins Vodka, 50 cents for a quarter-ounce tasting. (Maximum four per customer.) “We get very good feedback on both of them,” said Logan Hayes, 27, who runs the place. H&H was founded by his father, George Hayes, and George “Uncle” Higgins, and the doors opened in July 2014. Here, Logan talks about making liquor in Minerva.
Q. What are the ingredients for vodka and rum?
A. “They’re both made from cane-sugar mash. Our mashes are 70 pounds of sugar, 20 gallons of water and 17 ounces of yeast, more or less. The average person can make it at home. What gives them the difference in flavor is how they’re run through the still.”
Q. I had no idea vodka and rum were made from the same stuff.
A. “A lot of people think we make vodka from potatoes, but that’s pretty much the least efficient way to make vodka. No sugar and all starch. Very few distilleries in the world do that.”
Q. Did you have to purchase a lot of equipment?
A. “We keep it pretty low-tech. We have a digital scale we use to get everything to 80 proof, and there’s a heating element on the still, but that’s about all the technology we use. We have a homemade labeler.”
Q. How busy are you? Is the still always running?
A. “We’re always making it. In the summer, we’re very slammed and leading up to the holidays, we’re slammed again. And in those down months, we’re getting ready to be busy again. So you never stop. It takes a good while to build up a decent stock. I’m here about six days a week, and I have a job on top of this.”
Q. How’s foot traffic?
A. “On the weekends, we stay very steady.”
Q. What kind of reaction do you get from customers sampling the product?
A. “Typically what happens is I’ll give them the vodka first and they’ll tell us they’re really impressed with how smooth it is. Then comes the rum, which has a sweeter flavor, and they like it better. The vodka goes through the still three times, stripping down the flavors from the mash. The rum goes through a bit faster and retains the flavor from the cane sugar.”
Q. How much is a fifth?
A. “The price for 750 ml is $20 even, including tax. We’re also at some of the state stores.” (Giant Eagle stores in Alliance, Louisville and North Canton; Acme in North Canton; Fishers Foods in Jackson Township; Phil’s Wine Boutique in Canton.)
Q. What’s next for H&H?
A. “Moonshine is next. Eventually, we’re going to do a spiced rum and a maple rum.”
H&H Distillery, 108 N. Market St., Minerva, no listed phone, unclehiggins.com. Hours: noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.