A new Tri-Village area business is bringing back the craft of micro-distilling.

A new Tri-Village area business is bringing back the craft of micro-distilling.

Last month, Watershed Distillery's gin and vodka went on sale at stores, restaurants and bars around central Ohio.

Being part of a community is a big reason he and his partner decided to go into the distilling business, Watershed founder and head distiller Greg Lehman said.

"It's getting involved in Columbus and being part of the local community and being able to bring our unique flavor and product to the market," Lehman said.

The "Watershed" name was chosen in recognition "that the largest natural distiller is a watershed," he said.

"It's also that starting the distillery was a watershed moment for us," said Lehman, who left his day job to commit to the distillery business.

Watershed operates out of a small store front on Chesapeake Avenue, using a 60-gallon custom built still to make its gin and vodka.

Lehman and his partner do all of the bottling, corking and labeling themselves, even hand-writing the batch number on each bottle.

"There's a lot of care and hand touch in each batch we make," he said. "We can do about 100 cases in a week."

An Upper Arlington resident, Lehman said he was inspired to enter the distilling business when he was playing professional volleyball in Appenzell, Switzerland, after graduating from Ohio State.

"I was impressed by the amount of local products made there in the town," he said. "There were Appenzell cheese, Appenzell beer, even Appenzell train cars.

"It made me want to look at ways of being involved in the community" when he returned to central Ohio, Lehman said.

The process of gaining state approval to make and sell liquor was long, and required Lehman and his partner to come up with a marketing and business plan as well as a product that would pass muster with the state.

"There is a finite amount of alcoholic high proof spirits allowed to be made and sold in Ohio" he said. "They just don't let anyone do it. You have to meet their standards" including quality of product."

Watershed's 88 proof gin features a blend of eight botanicals, including juniper and coriander, that also includes a combination of citrus peel, Lehman said.

The 80 proof vodka is made of 100 percent corn grown in the midwest.

Both products are sold in 750 ml bottles. The gin costs $27.90 per bottle and the vodka retails for $24.40.

"We wanted to make it high quality but at the same time price it to make it as accessible as possible," Lehman said.

Late last month, Watershed also filled its first barrel of bourbon, but the product won't be ready for sale until 2013. The bourbon is comprised of 60 percent corn and 40 percent wheat.

"It's a risk, because we won't know if the bourbon turned out right until it's time to bottle," he said. "It's a slow process and it's kind of nerve-wracking."

Lehman said he believes Watershed's bourbon will be the first made in central Ohio since before prohibition.

"Ohio used to be one of the top bourbon-making states," he said. "We wanted to tie back into the great distilling history of Ohio by creating our own bourbon. It's exciting."

Along with 30-something outlets around central Ohio, Watershed will also begin selling its products at 38 locations in the Cleveland area next week. A map showing its central Ohio outlets is available at Watershed's website, www.watersheddistillery.com.

Lehman said tours of the distillery can be arranged by e-mailing him at greg@watersheddistillery.com.