Britton District’s newest distillery will release its first batches Dec 5.
The idea behind Woodworks Distilling Company — Oklahoma’s newest distillery — actually began in Columbus, Ohio, the year David Wood dropped his son at Ohio State University.
“I visited Watershed Distilling in Columbus and fell in love with the process and the experience,” Wood said.
Wood, whose mother founded Jean Barnes Books, worked at the bookstore starting in 1990, and then purchased the store from his parents in 1996. He joined the family business after working as a sales manager for a large liquor distributor. After more than a decade in retail and publishing, he went back to work at an alcoholic beverage distributor, which closed in 2017.
“When Action closed, I had to decide what my next step was,” he said. “I felt like I’d reached a point in my career where the next step was to work for myself, and I wanted to know how to pursue my long-term passion for craft in Oklahoma. Brewing was doing great, but it seemed to be plateauing in Oklahoma, and I love vinifera grapes, but they won’t grow in Oklahoma.”
Distilling offered the most possibility, even as it has the most restrictive legal limitations when it comes to business development. Wood started raising capital as soon as the name and logo were decided. COVID slowed that process dramatically.
“We were clipping along until COVID, and then we got nothing for about 14 months,” Wood said. “About 16 months ago, something shifted, and everyone was interested again.”
Once the funding was secured, Wood leased the old Ritz Theater in the Britton District and began converting it to a distillery and tasting room. The next step was hiring staff, and he turned to another industry veteran, Greg Seal, to assume front-of-house manager duties. For his distiller, he chose David Alexander, an experienced distiller with experience in Louisiana and California. Alexander also completed a training program at the oddly named but very prestigious Moonshine University, a program designed for startups like Woodworks.
On Dec. 5, the company will release their first batches of two gins and a vodka. The first two gins are a traditional dry style and a Western gin — typically a designation for new American gins that reduce the impact of juniper by increasing the number and percentage of other botanicals. The juniper remains the main ingredient, but as a subtext, not a drumbeat. In January 2023, Woodworks will distill and barrel a batch of the dry gin for a barrel-aged spirit using either Maker’s Mark or Woodford barrels. Wood said he won’t know which barrels they will get until they arrive.
At the same time as the release, they’ll begin sales at the distillery, and customers will be able to taste the product on site as well beginning the second week of December ahead of the full opening of the tasting room. Wood said they are still working on what the full spectrum of options will be at the tasting room, but they’ve already nailed down the food by partnering with local concepts that are neighbors in Britton such as Venn Pizza and Zero Tolerance Coffee and Chocolate.
Wood said they have also purchased whiskey from another distillery and will release a Preface Series immediately, which includes a rye and bourbon. Both whiskeys will also go into barrel for a 2-year and a 4-year aged whiskey. February 2023 will see the release of the Woodworks Persimmon Liqueur and a walnut liqueur called Nocino.
Details about tours and amenities are still in the planning phase. Wood said they’re thinking of six different levels of tours — all depending on legal issues — that will include samples, glassware and access to a VIP room for private events and business meetings.