Whiskey among the many products made with bushels of Indiana corn - Indiana Corn and Soy

Whiskey among the many products made with bushels of Indiana corn

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 8, 2023) — Corn is more than a staple food source for many Americans. Corn is more than feed for livestock and poultry. Corn is more than an energy ingredient for high-octane fuels such as ethanol. Corn, in reality, is a versatile grain that is abundant and useful in a variety of products.

The Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC), the state’s corn checkoff program, is dedicated to delivering corn in all of its different forms to customers across America and around the world. One of the more popular forms is as old as Indiana itself – whiskey. ICMC joined 18 other state corn marketing associations in promoting new products in the competitive whiskey industry through the Heartland Whiskey Competition.

“Indiana’s corn checkoff works to find creative ways to promote new uses of corn in a growing market,” said 2023 ICMC President Paul Hodgen, a farmer from Roachdale, Ind. “We’re happy to support the whiskey competition. With this competition, ICMC is reaching a non-traditional audience and educating them on alternate uses of corn. This project helps ICMC bridge the gap between farmers and consumers on the multiple uses of corn and the quality and sustainability of its production in Indiana.”

The other state checkoffs participating in the competition were from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Heartland Whiskey Competition

The Heartland Whiskey Competition is a biennial, blind-tasting judging contest that is sanctioned and supervised by the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA). The competition offers several categories to craft distillers from all U.S. states and territories. In addition to category competitions, such as bourbon, moonshine, etc., “Best of State” awards are given to those states with corn association sponsorships. A “Best of Show” award is given to the highest-scoring whiskey from the “Best of State” winners.

The 2023 competition introduced the Top Farmer-Distiller Award. Farmer-distillers made up 32 percent of this year’s entries this year – a new record high. The winner of this award was Single Barrel Bourbon – Tobacco Barn by Tobacco Barn Distillery of Hollywood, Md.

“Corn farmers, through their state corn associations, have supported the U.S. craft distilling industry through this important competition,” said ACSA CEO Margie Lehrman. “We greatly appreciate their continued support and the fact they supply our members with the best corn product in the world.”

The competition was in early August, in St. Louis, Mo. ACSA facilitated the judging. Recent ACSA Board President Chris Montana, owner of Du Nord Social Spirits in Minnesota, served as Judging Director. Other judges were from the Missouri and Illinois spirits industry and were chosen for their knowledge of craft whiskey.

2023 Best in Indiana Winner

The 2023 Best in State Winner, sponsored by ICMC, was Hugh Hamer Straight Bourbon Rum Finish Cask Strength crafted by the West Fork Whiskey Co. of Westfield, Ind. West Fork Whiskey was launched in 2015 in downtown Indianapolis, Ind. As native Hoosiers, co-founders Blake Jones and David McIntyre brought West Fork Whiskey to life to share their passion of American spirit. McIntyre and Jones said they want to create sip-able, smooth whiskeys that are always made with 100 percent Indiana-grown grain.

“We started West Fork Whiskey Co. to share our interpretation of America’s native spirit with the world,” Jones said. “Our spirits are 100 percent Indiana from grain to glass. We pay respect to one of the best grain-producing states in America, and we toast to hard work and dedication with every glass.”

Hodgen said ICMC is proud to present West Fork Whiskey with the award and appreciate their efforts to support Indiana corn farmers. McIntyre said their mission is genuine.

“We are hell-bent on creating a great whiskey and paying homage to Indiana’s rich distilling history,” he said. “At the end of the day, what matters most to us is being an Indiana distillery that produces whiskey that tastes great to consumers – especially that hard-working Indiana working class.”

The winning bourbon has historic Hoosier roots, too. Hugh Hamer Straight Bourbon Rum Finish Cask Strength is based on a 19th century recipe developed by the Hamer Family. Hugh and Thomas Hamer acquired the village of Spring Mill, Ind., in 1825 for $7,000 that was to be paid over time. The Hamers operated a mill and distilled excess corn for whiskey lovers as far south as New Orleans, La.

“The goal of West Fork Whiskey has always been to create great Indiana whiskey,” McIntyre said. “We decided to resurrect the Old Hamer brand as it has a unique place in the history books of whiskey in Indiana. The bourbon mash bill of 99 percent corn and 1 percent malted barley is very similar, if not identical, to that of what the Hamer family would have used while creating their whiskey. We feel this brand is an accurate representation of great Indiana whiskey.”

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