Tag Archives: Whiskey

Visiting Pinckney Bend Distillery

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Almost exactly a year ago, I posted about having heard from a distiller in New Haven, Missouri. Ralph Haynes of Pinckney Bend Distillery had left an enthusiastic review on Amazon of my book, Midwest Maize, and had then contacted me about my book having encouraged him and his partners in their pursuit of whiskeys made from heirloom corn, which are recreating the tastes of the 1800s. (Three bottles of this heirloom corn are shown above, with the type of corn identified on the bottom label. The Wapsie Valley was my favorite.) At the time, he suggested I come down to New Haven, to check out the whiskey and to enjoy some of the very picturesque area—and maybe even do a presentation about corn.

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Last year, it seemed unlikely that I’d get there, but when a conference appeared on my calendar that was taking me about that far south, though a bit to the east (Louisville, KY, to be exist – more on this on my The World’s Fare blog), I thought I might come home by way of Missouri. Ralph’s wife, who managed the local library district, arranged for the offered presentation opportunity, so I got to do my “How Corn Changed Itself and Then Changed Everything Else” talk for a most appreciative local crowd.

The distillery is just a few yards from the Missouri River, at the end of a street of historic buildings and just off the Lewis and Clark Trail. So I was delighted with the location, even without having a distillery close at hand. And within the distillery, in addition to gleaming stills and colorful heirloom corn varieties, there were maps and tales of the meandering Missouri River and steamboats that were sunk by the river’s snags and bends. (In the photo below, the river feature called Pinckney Bend is in the center, and you can see that, even when the river changed its course, it still “bent” at this spot.)

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There were also a lot of antiques related to corn growing and processing, including shellers and jabbers, which I talk about in my book, so I was really having fun. Plus the modern equipment is remarkably handsome. They have two stills, one slightly larger than the other. The one below is the smaller of the two stills.

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Of course, I did get to try some of the elegant whiskeys produced by Pinckney Bend, as well as their gin, and I toured their facility. But Ralph had also planned a few other things for me to see, both with him and on my own. So it was a lovely few days of exploring—as you’ll see over the next few posts.

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Filed under Agriculture, Corn, Culture, Food, History, Midwest, Midwest Maize, Travel

Pinckney Bend

One of the loveliest aspects of being a writer is the people with whom my work connects me. Most often, this is people I’m interviewing for books and articles, but occasionally, it’s people who approach me because they have enjoyed my writing. Such was the case with Ralph of Pinckney Bend Distillery.

Pinckney Bend crafts whiskey in the style of the 1800s, using heirloom corn, to make it as much like the historic drink as possible. After reading my book, Midwest Maize, which addresses the historic creation of whiskey from corn, Ralph contacted me to let me know he’d read and liked my book and to tell me about their efforts to recreate that sense of history. I love that there is someone who loves history enough to go to this extra effort—to not simply use old methods to produce the product but even growing old types of corn to make certain they’re being historically accurate.

I haven’t yet made it down to Missouri, to visit Pinckney Bend or sample their whiskey, but it has certainly been added to my travel plans for the coming year. I’ve done a bit of re-enacting (American Revolution), regularly visit places that recreate history, such as Colonial Williamsburg and Greenfield Village, and been to a few historic banquets (Elizabethan England, Napoleonic France, and a few visits to the American Civil War), and there is a special joy in tasting something that connects you to an important period of history. At least there is if you love history, and I do.

If you’re interested in knowing more, about the place and the product, here’s a link to the history of Pinckney Bend (good Lewis & Clark story, among other tales), and you can explore their products from there.

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Filed under Corn, Culture, History, Midwest, Midwest Maize, Travel

Peoria’s Past

Peoria surprised me. It was larger and more handsome than I’d expected. One of the earliest European settlements in Illinois, the city was named for the Peoria Indians.

Peoria hugs the Illinois River—which, as mentioned in the last post, was a key part of the “circuit” that connected Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River.

One chilly, February day, I was in Peoria with a friend to visit the Riverfront Museum—there was a Chihuly exhibit she wanted to see. But, though I enjoyed the Chihuly,  I was there primarily because Peoria was once a huge part of the corn story. This city was once the biggest consumer of corn in the world. They had more than one use for corn, but the vast majority of it went to “feed” the distilleries that lined the river in old Peoria. When I tell people that Peoria was once the “Whiskey Capital of the World,” they find it hard to believe. But here, at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, were displays testifying to this one-time legendary aspect of this Illinois town. Things have changed – but it’s still fun to know how much things have changed.

Peoria Riverfront Museum

Peoria Riverfront Museum

Whiskey Bottles and map of Distillers Row

Whiskey Bottles and map of Distillery Row

The Peoria riverfront has changed.

The Peoria riverfront has changed.

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Filed under Agriculture, Corn, Culture, Farming, Food, History, Midwest, Midwest Maize, Travel