Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by J.K. Williams Distilling. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Once upon a time, over 100 years ago, Peoria, Illinois was known as the “Whiskey Capital of the World.” Between 1837 and 1919, the city boasted more than 24 breweries and 73 distilleries and was a magnet for wealthy distillers and brewers far and wide. One distiller who put down roots during the booming years of production in Peoria was J.K. Williams, who developed his own special recipe.
No big surprise, the success and fame brought to Peoria through whiskey production came to a grinding halt at the onset of Prohibition. Williams was eventually forced underground to bootleg production of whiskey, where he had run-ins with criminal elements who were in charge during those days, including Al Capone, who is said to have forced him out of town. Many, many years later, William’s great-grandsons picked up the family recipes to create J.K. Williams Distilling, launched in the 2010.
JK Williams Bridge Series celebrates the Murray Baker Bridge in Peoria and strives to honor that Williams family recipe. Head Distiller Jeff Murphy states, “Each expression in The Bridge Series will consist of a blend between products we’ve kept in barrels over the years with a newer American Wheat Whiskey. We are bridging the gap between old and new with this series.”
The business was purchased from the Williams family in 2019, and while the legacy is no longer in the lineage, new President Andy Faris promises, “Everything we do ties back to a deeper story and furthers our goal of bringing the art of distilling back to the area.”
Tasting Notes: J.K. Williams Bridge Series – American Wheat Whiskey
Vital Stats: 95% wheat. 94 proof (47% ABV). Retails for $49.99/750mL.
Appearance: Very lightly browned butter.
Nose: Grassy, subtle apple, and cinnamon.
Palate: Raisin bran and wheat with specks of sugar and honey.
This is a fairly generic wheat whiskey, with little to really grab onto in the taste that makes it stand out. I can’t say I recommend it, but at the same time it’s not at all offensive. If anything, it’s an easily forgettable spirit, but may work well in a cocktail with some good bitters.
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Jerry Jenae Sampson
Jerry Sampson is a freelance writer, editor and screenwriter. Her creative work is ever improved by her love of whiskey and craft cocktails. She enjoys taking cool fall days to explore the great distilleries around Portland to get a closer look at the inner workings of her favorite spirits.