The Belle of Dayton Serves Up the Belle of Vodkas & More!
When it comes to artisanal spirits, The Belle of Dayton is distilling some of the most unique small batch concoctions you’re likely to find anywhere and winning awards as they do it.
(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking. These funds go to maintain the site. Thank you for your support.)
Murphy, Mike and Tim LaSelle are brothers who work together to produce the small-batch artisan spirits. Just when craft beer production started booming in the States, these boys got together and decided to go against the grain and open up a distillery.
The Dayton area was once dotted with grist mills and distilleries, as Mike will tell you at a tasting. Once producing a variety of whiskies and rye drinks that were exported as far south as New Orleans, after the Prohibition era the distilleries just didn’t come back in the resounding way that breweries did. Today, when you hit up that local spirits corner of the grocer, pay attention to the label and you’ll notice a trend… a lot of it is imported. In a time when many Americans are talking about where their buck is going and who they are supporting, it’s a bit of a comfort to know that these Dayton homegrown boys are bringing some distilling expertise back to the area.
They’re also doing it with style and winning awards along the way.
After taking classes in Kentucky and Chicago, brothers Mike and Murphy set up shop in the historic Oregon district of Dayton, Ohio in 2013 and after renovating the place, they started distilling. During the tasting, you’ll get to know all of the gnitty gritty of the shop and how the brothers work together and you’ll get to learn about one of the biggest hurdles they had to overcome… what to name the place. Timing really is everything and just when the list of possible names was becoming ridiculous and nothing seemed right, an article in the Dayton Daily News called out through a mystery whiskey bottle. A bottle emblazoned with the words “Belle of Dayton” was found and seemed to hearken back to the early 1900s when speakeasies were all the rage. That was all the LaSelles needed.
Not only does Belle of Dayton produce high quality spirits but they do so while embracing the area’s past of innovation and production.
The first spirit the brothers produced was their Dayton Small Batch Vodka made from 100% corn spirits and distilled in their 350 gallon copper still, which Mike is really proud of as you’d find out during the tour. The spirit which is made with the mineral-rich water of the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer won the Platinum Medal at the 2015 SIP Awards as well as the Silver Medal at the 2014 and 2015 New York World Batch Wine & Spirits Competition. These guys really started out with a bang and they aren’t slowing down anytime soon. During the tasting, not only do you get some impressive information about the spirits, but Mike shares a lot about the history of the Dayton area as well as the importance of our local water sources.
According to Mike who runs the tasting but also sells their spirits to local vendors, it seemed the Belle of Dayton was becoming synonymous with the best vodka producer in the area. While that’s surely a compliment, the brothers wanted to prove that they aren’t just vodka distillers, but they can whip up a mean rum and other spirits too.
Belle of Dayton released a 1775 Colonial Reserve Rum made to emulate an 18th century recipe in a modern way. Mike went into great detail about how original rum was produced with blackstrap molasses, a byproduct during sugar production. Molasses once had a high quantity of sugars that could be used for fermentation. The molasses we buy today in markets is completely different from the molasses of yore, so the guys contacted International Molasses, a large exporter right in the Dayton Valley. They teamed up to produce some modern styled colonial era rum; something that just can’t be found everywhere… or maybe anywhere else. The rum received a silver medal at the 2015 San Francisco Worlds Spirits competition proving that their philosophy of taking 18th century recipes and expertise and pairing it with new technologies of today and fermenting capabilities is proving sound. We got to taste the rum from the last bottle available. If you missed it, you’ll just have to wait and see what else is churned out because unfortunately that rum was a one-batch wonder. Boy was it a wonder though!
One of my personal favorites from the tasting was the hot hot HOT Hell’s Vodka. This vodka combines the Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Scorpion, Smoked Ghost, Habanero, Jalapeno, Ancho and Belle peppers in the spiciest vodka around. When I said hot three times, I wasn’t exaggerating. While it was a bit too fiery for my tastebuds at the tasting, it was PERFECT when combined with tomato juice for a hot Bloody Mary the next day. Mix up a Bloody Mary with Belle of Dayton’s Hell’s Vodka and you won’t need to add anything else.
Another smooth favorite for everyone at the tasting was the Dayton Gin. Belle of Dayton produces a 93 proof small-batch dry gin that combines juniper berry with rye, hops, lemon peel and coriander for a very palatable drink to be enjoyed and sipped. My group and I found the tasting with Mike to be a great way to experience the Oregon Historic District.
Not only did we learn about Dayton history, water and the steps it takes to distill, but we literally drank our way through history with the Belle of Dayton’s historically reminiscent spirits.
So what’s in store after their award winning vodka, rum and gin?
This year, Belle of Dayton will be releasing their first barrel of 4-grain Ohio Rye Whiskey as well as their first barrel of 18th Century Style Bourbon Barrel Cask Rum. Having had great success with previous batches, these new releases are sure to be a wonder to the palate and anyone in the Dayton area needs to stop by here to not only support local, but to enjoy some unique spirits too. Tasting room hours have also been expanded this year so there is even more opportunity to stop on down, meet the brothers that are mixing up tasty surprises in a bottle and drink up at a beautiful bar with a window into the distillery.
If you want to have a great time in the Oregon District, I highly recommend starting the evening at Crafted & Cured just up the street for a craft beer and cured meat and cheese pairing. After that, head to Belle of Dayton for an informative and fun tasting and then hit up the main Oregon District drag.
If you’ll be visiting Dayton, look into staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel or the Inn Port D’Vino which are both right downtown and within walking distance of Belle of Dayton.
Belle of Dayton
122 Van Buren Street, Dayton, Ohio 45402, USA
Tasting Room Hours: Thursday 12:00pm ~ 5:00pm; Friday 12:00pm ~ 5:00pm; Saturday 5:00pm ~9:00pm