JK Williams developing new whiskey varieties from historic tastes

Dec 7, 2015

Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

 The East Peoria-based spirits-maker J.K. Williams Distilling is rolling out barrels of new whiskey varieties this month. One of those new releases has a historic flavor.

Jesse Williams owns and distills for the East Peoria-based spirits company J.K. Williams Distilling.
Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

Owner and distiller Jesse Williams has an eye for history and reusing things of the past. Williams builds furniture out of scrap wood -- like bar stools out of used barrel staves:

“Taking old and making new or refurbishing is always been something I’ve learned to do," Williams said. "I’ve never been taught that everything is disposable. You don’t throw it away unless it’s been spent.”

So it’s striking to hear that Williams is launching a new rye whiskey. Rye is the latest growing trend in the distilling industry. But it turns out, Williams says, history is to blame.

“Rye all but died with prohibition," Williams said. "Rye whiskey was very, very popular prior to prohibition because of the dominance of corn that was grown all over the country.”

As the name implies, the mash used to make rye whiskey is comprised mostly of rye grain. Williams says he hopes to get the product bottled and on store shelves in time for Christmas. 

Williams says the rye whiskey will sell for about $50 a bottle. The company is also producing a straight bourbon. That means it’s aged for at least two years in a charred oak barrel. J.K. Williams plans to release the new straight bourbon early in the new year.