Gahanna's Noble Cut Distillery, Powell's Magnolia Spirits mix to offer 'one-stop shop'

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

Quite the blend has developed between Magnolia Spirits LLC of Powell and Noble Cut Distillery, 750-K Cross Pointe Road, in Gahanna.

Noble Cut founder Tony Guilfoy is proofing, filtering, finishing, bottling, labeling and distributing to the state rectifier Ed Carey’s S.N. Pike’s Magnolia bourbon and whiskey that became available for purchase Jan. 2 in several Ohio locations.

“What we’re finding is there’s a good harmony between these two companies, providing different products,” Guilfoy said. “We’re encompassing more of a customer base. So we’re a one-stop shop for your great bourdon, your good liqueur and your good whiskeys. And soon to be vodka as well.” 

Noble Cut, whose mission is to deliver on a vision of crafted spirits as diverse as its heritage from the Ozark Mountains and European country sides, produces its own line of whiskeys and cellos.

“Hands down, (the) best limoncello I’ve ever had,” posted Jessica Kirby-Aranda on Noble Cut’s Facebook page earlier this month. 

Westerville resident Tamra Krouskoupf Kincer agreed, posting, “I tell everyone, and we’ve been to Italy.” 

Re-creating Magnolia

Carey said his goal in re-creating the Magnolia brand is to act in the Samuel Pike tradition as a rectifier, seeking out and blending special quality bourbon and whiskey.

Retiring from the real-estate business two years ago, Carey said, he always has liked to work ever since he was a paper boy in Buffalo, New York, where he was born. 

Tony Guilfoy (left) of Noble Cut Distillery, 750-K Cross Pointe Road in Gahanna, has teamed up with Ed Carey to bring back Magnolia Spirits.

“I looked at different investments after I sold my buildings and things,” he said. “One of the people that was involved in the guild for spirits in Ohio suggested I talk with Tony. He’s a great guy. He’s very knowledgeable, just a good person and does a great job.”

Given he’s 75, Carey said, he didn’t want to start his own distillery to produce bourbon and whiskey that require years of aging. 

“I’m not sure I’d be around when they were done,” he said. “So I decided to look around for some brand ideas. I found this brand called S.N. Pike’s Magnolia that was created in Cincinnati and trademarked in 1849.”

He said Pike was one of the most successful rectifiers. 

“He didn’t have a distillery either,” Carey said. “That’s what resonated with me. He would source his whiskey in Kentucky, bring it to Cincinnati, blend it, do his magic and then bottle it under the Magnolia name and sell it. He was so successful that he was a multimillionaire before 1900.”

Pike was one of Cincinnati’s prominent citizens who had built the Queen City's first opera house, Carey said.

“Later on, his brand kept growing, and he moved to New York and built the first opera house in New York,” he said. “He really sold all over the country and even in Europe. He would load his product, which was Magnolia whiskey, on riverboats from the Ohio to the Mississippi down to New Orleans and then ship it to Europe. It’s a fascinating story.”

As empty barrels become available, they can be purchased at Noble Cut Distillery, 750-K Cross Pointe Road in Gahanna.

Pike’s brand died during Prohibition, and it fell out of trademark, according to Carey.

“So the more I read, I loved the Ohio roots,” he said. “I loved that he sourced his whiskey and was a rectifier and it was real high-quality stuff.”

Carey secured the Magnolia trademark and began selling Straight Wheated Bourbon and a Bottled in Bond High Rye Whiskey under S.N. Pike’s Magnolia line Jan. 2. 

“I asked my daughter, Meagan (Carey) Cafarelli, to join me as a partner, which is very gratifying,” he said.

Cafarelli, a Worthington resident, has experience in fashion and marketing, Carey said. 

“She worked for several firms in Miami Beach, Miami, and moved back here to have a family and raise kids,” he said. “She takes care of all the social marketing and media and works with the designers.”

Carey said he wanted a quality product and story, and he wanted to tell it in a first-class way.

“I looked around, and Tony and I hit it off right away,” he said. “He has some capacity. I’ve sourced the whiskey and bourbon. That’s in southern Indiana. Then I found the bottles I wanted in Pennsylvania. They’re very much like the original bottle. I found an actual original bottle – 130 years old – on eBay.” 

Carey said the cost back then was $1 compared to $50 today. 

“So we ship it here, and Tony takes over and does his magic,” he said. “The other thing we do, which is very important, is we import Kentucky spring water. I didn’t want to use any local source of water. If you’re a bourbon drinker, Kentucky spring water is a big deal. It actually improves the taste.”

He said whiskey and bourbon get their color and aging from the time in the barrel. 

“Our bourbons are 3 ½ years in the barrel, and our whiskey is approaching five years,” Carey said. “You need that time. That’s what helps produce quality, along with a distiller.”

Proofing with Kentucky spring water

Guilfoy said the proofing process starts when the barrels are brought to the distillery. 

“We have to weigh out the alcohol, take the proof,” he said. “So we have a proofing machine that gets the accuracy of the whiskey or any spirit within .00001%. At that point we figure out how much volume we have. Then we start the proofing process. Proofing is just diluting whiskey down. So it comes out of the barrel at between 115 and 120 proof. For the Bottled and Bond, it’s 100 proof. The way we take that down is by using water.”

One of the things Carey has done is introduce the idea of proofing down with Kentucky spring water, Guilfoy said. 

“So we imported right around 500 gallons of water,” he said. “And then we just dilute the whiskey down with the Kentucky water. Once we get to 100 proof, then we go through a process of bottling. So we label, we bottle, we package. What I’m doing now is palletizing everything to send it to the state. That’s the process.”

Proofing usually takes anywhere from two to five days, Guilfoy said.  

“The way we actually proof our whiskey down is a technique called trickle proofing. So instead of dumping in the water to dilute down, we do it over a period of about five days so we can get a natural dilution instead of shocking the alcohol. ... Whiskey has already been sitting in a barrel for five years, what’s five more days?”  

The processing for whiskey and bourbon is almost identical because the barrels are being harvested in the same manner, said Guilfoy, 40, of Columbus. 

The percentage of alcohol is half the proof in the United States. So a beverage with 45% alcohol is 90 proof, according to a Brittanica.com story.

“What’s different about the bourbon and the whiskey is the way in which the alcohol is made,” he said. “With bourbon, it has to be minimum of 51% corn. So the bourbon that we use is 51% corn, 45% wheat and 4% malted barley. So that’s where you get a lot of differences. Whenever we talk about the grains we use for alcohol, it’s also the breads in the grains we’re eating. So a lot of the whiskeys will have those flavor profiles of the breads. So with rye whiskey, it’s kind of bold just like rye bread. The rye whiskey we have is 95% rye and 5% malted barley. The process of getting it into the barrel is different. Once it’s in the barrel, there’s no differences in processing a whiskey or bourbon barrel.”

Guilfoy said Carey, a Powell resident, purchases the whiskey he wants to sell.

“That’s a rectifier,” he said. “You go and buy the best; you sell the best. When it comes to making whiskey like what we do (at Noble Cut), it’s not like every barrel is going to be beautiful. Some barrels really aren’t that good. About one out of every four barrels we have to do a blending. It didn’t turn out 100% right.

“We’ll have to blend it with one that did turn out really well, so we can get a flavor profile. There’s a lot more risk in the way I make our whiskey than the way Ed is doing it. But there’s also the cost. It cost him more than it would for me to produce a barrel. There is a happy medium between Noble Cut and Magnolia.” 

Likening to W.L. Weller

Carey said people who drink bourbon will say Magnolia is like Buffalo Trace Distillery's W.L. Weller. 

“It’s like redemption wheat,” he said. “I would call it a good sipping bourbon that’s pretty mild.”

Carey, an Irish Catholic, said he started drinking at 16. 

“So I’m a professional,” he said. “I’m a bourbon drinker. Much to my wife’s chagrin, who’s a good Methodist, I have 50 bottles of bourbon in my den. Which, of course, I say is for business because I need to compare products.”  

Tasting the right way

Guilfoy, who serves as host to tours with tastings, recommends a specific way to sample Magnolia bourbon for optimal flavor.

“You put it on the tip of your tongue, but you don’t swallow,” he said. “You kind of let it just fade away. With that, there’s a lot of caramel. There’s a sweetness. If you don’t swallow, you’re actually able to taste the oils in the pectins and the alcohol.

“Where you get the full flavor is when you put it on the tip of your tongue and let it roll back. When you do that, that’s where you get the fruit flavors, almost like a very ripe apricot when you let it flow down. If you do it again, the second taste, you get all the aspects of the honeysuckle; you get the baking spices; you get the caramel, and you get the fruit.”

The floral flavor is from using the Kentucky spring water, he said.  

“Whenever you’re using real spring water, you get a lot more of the fruit and floral notes,” Guilfoy said. “With the rye whiskey, you don’t get as much of the honeysuckle.”

He said ryes fall into two categories: spicy or fruit forward. 

“This is 100 proof,” Guilfoy said. “You do get some of those baking spices. I smell baking cinnamon right off the bat. On the front, it’s very fruity. For a rye whiskey, usually on the front, it’s going to be peppery. When rye is done right, you get a lot of those fruit notes. I get blackberry, almost like it’s chocolate covered, like chocolate-covered cherries.

“What you’re looking for on something like this is a balanced approach, so nothing is overpowering.”

Guilfoy said whiskey is meant to be shared. 

“That’s the way it was intended,” he said. 

Carey said his goal is to get Magnolia in 50 locations around the state. 

“In another couple months, we’ll have figured out how to work with an out-of-state distributor and retailer because you can’t ship in and out of Ohio under the current laws,” he said. “So we expect to be able to have people from all over the country buy online in another couple of months.”

Once goals are reached in Ohio, Carey said, he plans to expand into South Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla