When one thinks of American bourbon, the typicals of its definition come to mind, meaning it is likely produced in Kentucky from one of the larger distilleries there and it primarily comes from a grain mixture that is at least 51 percent corn. Craft distillers, however, have been for some bit been upending the idea that it need not be made in the Bluegrass State, and now one operation out of Brooklyn, New York is exploring the corn that is being used.
Cacao Prieto Distillery, under its Widow Jane bourbon label, takes issue with whether or not bourbons should be made from corn that’s been genetically modified (GMO). As an experiment the distillers there began looking into using heirloom and ancient strains of corn instead. They focused in on Bloody Butcher corn, bred by crossing Native American seeds with settlers’ white seeds around 1800 in the Appalachian mountains, and Wapsie Valley, another hybrid of American Indian corn, that got its start in the hands of dedicated farmers in Iowa.
A challenge in turning what was obviously low yields of corn that aren’t grown by the acres and acres into quality bourbon was the economics, as the yields were said to be ” 1/10 to 1/4 that of GMO yellow varieties, thus costing proportionally that much more to grow.” Widow Jane pushed on however, and now believes they’ve succeeded in distilling “some of the finest American whiskeys ever produced” out of New York State grown farm-to-bottle distillations of Bloody Butcher corn and Wapsie Valley corn.
Three limited bottlings are now available for purchase from the distillery, as outlined below. Each bottle comes in a tube box with a collectible print and a few kernels of corn.
Wapsie Valley “Single Expression” Bourbon ($115): Mash Bill 60% Organic Wapsie Valley Corn (Mixed yellow and red endosperm corn), 15% Heirloom Barley, 25% Rye.
Nose: Almond, Maple, Light Bitters, Unsweetened Chocolate
Taste: Pralines, Orange Oils, Bergamot, Cacao, Zesty
Finish: Honey, Brown Spices (Mace or Soft Nutmeg), Clean, Lingering
Bloody Butcher “Single Expression” Bourbon ($125): Mash Bill 85% Organic Bloody Butcher Corn (Dark Red endosperm corn), 15% Heirloom Barley.
Nose: Sweet Oak, Graham Cracker
Taste: Vanilla, Dry Up Front, Bright, Allspice
Finish: Tannic, Sharp, Tobacco, Molasses, Oak
Bloody Butcher High Rye Bourbon ($135): Mash Bill 58% Organic Bloody Butcher Corn, 15% Heirloom Barley, 27% Rye.
Nose: Cacao, Sandalwood, Cedar, Leather
Taste: Sharp Apricot, Toasted Marshmallows, Cardamom, Candied Apples
Finish: Salted Peanuts, Grilled Honeyed Peaches, Dates
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...