O-I Packaging Solutions Supports Indiana Wine Pioneers as they Expand into Spirits
After seven generations in business, the Huber family of Southern Indiana continues to draw on their heritage to inspire new ventures.
The latest example for the family, who were pioneers in the development of the state’s wine industry in the 1970s, was the launch of their Starlight Distillery label last year.
Featuring a wide range of brandies, ports, rum, whiskey, vodka, gin and more in a variety of bottles from O-I Packaging Solutions, Starlight Distillery brings the Huber family full circle to their early roots.
Huber’s Orchard, Winery and Vineyards traces its history back to 1843, when the first generation of the family came from Baden-Baden, Germany, and settled in Starlight, Indiana, about 30 minutes north of Louisville, Kentucky. They began running a fruit farm, and also made their own wines and spirits based on traditional family recipes.
Over the years, the business grew and diversified in response to changing times. During Prohibition, the family stopped producing alcohol and increased their focus on agriculture, adding a dairy barn. Indiana state laws on alcohol production remained restrictive even after prohibition, so the third and fourth generations of the family continued to expand their agriculture business, opening a farm market and pick-your- own-produce operation.
It wasn’t until the 1970s when the fifth generation got back into alcohol production following Indiana’s adoption of the Small Winery Act, which the Huber family supported alongside fellow Indiana wine industry pioneer Bill Oliver of Oliver Winery. Huber’s converted their dairy barn into a winery, planted grapevines, and produced their first wine, made from strawberries, in 1978. Today, the winery continues to run out of the old dairy barn and features a number of grape varietals as well as wines made from strawberries, raspberries and peaches.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the sixth generation of the family saw an opportunity to build on the success of the winery by making their business a destination for a wide variety of family activities, adding an ice cream shop, cheese factory, and banquet and event facility.
The early seeds for Starlight Distillery were planted in the late 1990s. Looking for expansion opportunities in their alcoholic beverage business, the family turned to their first-generation distilling traditions and began making brandies, ports and infusions – the only distilled spirits they were able to produce under an amendment to the Small Winery Act.
Seeing the growth in craft spirits in recent years, the Huber family once again worked with industry partners and state legislators to update state law to enable small distilleries to make grain alcohols. When that legislation was adopted in 2013, the family laid the groundwork for the Starlight brand, which launched with a vodka in June of last year and added gin and bourbon in October and December.
The Huber family looked to O-I Packaging Solutions for unique glass bottle designs to showcase their new spirits. They were already familiar with O-I’s attentive service, having sourced wine bottles from the glass supplier for years.
“They’ve always taken time to come out and get to know our business,” said Dana Huber. “They’re very customer-focused. They also realize that our business can be unpredictable, and work with us when circumstances change.”
The distillery, featuring stills from their native Germany, has added another attraction to their property and opened up a new market segment for the family to pursue as they move into their seventh generation. But, like all of the Huber family ventures, it has been pursued carefully and thoughtfully.
“We’re always trying to figure out what keeps us relevant, but we take our time and give each venture a chance to succeed before launching into something new,” Dana said. “With each business, we try to do what we do very well and with high quality.”