Webinar: Distilling With Heirloom Corn
When?: May 6th, 3 PM Eastern
What?: A panel of whiskey-making icons update us on their latest experiments with heirloom corn varietals and detail how craft distillers can achieve a wide range of flavor profiles and push the boundaries of the entire whiskey category.
Alan Bishop, Head Distiller, Spirits of French Lick, is a self-taught distiller and historian of Southern Indiana’s deep distilling heritage. Alan grew up alongside generations of tobacco farmers and both legal and illicit distillers. Alan began his own education in earnest at the age of 15 on a pot still he built with the help of his father and grandfather. Despite his family’s background and having been exposed to the art from an incredibly young age, his father and grandfather refused to teach Alan how to distill, preferring that he figure it out on his own. By his mid-twenties, Alan had pursued home distillation to its pinnacle and the time had come to take the next step.
Alan was hired at Copper and Kings in Louisville, KY, where he oversaw the cultivation of Chenin Blanc, Colombard, and Muscat grapes. He was responsible for the production of apple brandy and absinthe, and also the blending of products for bottling. After two years at Copper and Kings, Alan got the call to come to what he refers to as “the right side of the river,” to build the team at Spirits of French Lick.
Alan is reticent to have the title of “Master Distiller” ascribed to him, as he feels there is always more to learn and perfect about the art of distillation. Alan prefers to think of himself as “Head Alchemist” at Spirits of French Lick in West Baden, Indiana. His focus is on using historic “Hoosier” methods of distilling in a modern facility. This includes propagating his own yeast strains, using alternative grain types, unique barrel maturation, and low entry proof with no chill filtration. From these methods, Spirits of French Lick’s Lee W. Sinclair 4 Grain Bourbon was born.
Alan considers it an honor to have been invited to participate in the Mount Vernon Distilling Program and he frequently volunteers at the Historic Locust Grove Farm Distillery. Currently, Alan is working with the Indiana DNR to re-establish the historic distillery at Spring Mill State Park in Lawrence County, Indiana. His goal is to turn it into a working educational distillery.
Alan loves to write about the history of the Southern Indiana Distilling Complex. You can read his research on the lives, individual methods, and stories of several Hoosier Distillers on his blog, thealchemistcabinet.com. In his spare time, Alan heads up a historic distilling reenactment troupe called “Hell’s Half Acre Hellbilly Burlesque Show.” He has also authored a book on distillation; The Alchemist Cabinet vol 1. Philosophy, with plans for a second volume soon to follow.
Gary Hinegardner, owner and distiller of Wood Hat Spirits, New Florence, MO, grew up on a timber and livestock farm in SW Missouri where the family cut white oak for barrels, among other things. Gary has a BS in Biology and a Master’s in Agronomy. He has been a Peace Corps volunteer, an agricultural extension agent, manager of a farm supply cooperative and president of Missouri Mulch (a division of Independent Stave Company). In the last 9 years he has built and operated a vertically integrated craft distillery where he is involved at every level from breeding, selecting, and growing heirloom corns to distributing product. The distillery produces nationally and internationally awarded bourbons, corn whiskeys, and liqueurs.
Lisa Wicker is President & Head Distiller of Widow Jane Distillery in Brooklyn, New York. Wicker started her career in a vineyard as a farm hand after working for several years in the arts. Trained first as an apprentice winemaker, she worked her way through all aspects of production, from harvest, winemaking, bottling, lab work and blending.
Wicker moved to Kentucky in 2010 to build a winery for ten year old established vineyards. She respected and replicated the old wine tradition of Kentucky, one of the largest wine producing states prior to prohibition. Wicker began working towards the legality of obtaining a still to produce brandy. She met Steve Beam of Limestone Branch Distillery, six miles from the winery, and began working there in the evenings, blending product and learning to distill. Working on a collaboration for peach brandy for a client of Limestone Branch facilitated the move to distilling full time.
Three years at Limestone Branch, she developed a client product that won “World’s Best Liqueur” at the 2015 World Liqueur Awards in London, had their first “brown spirit” release, perfected cooking heirloom corn mash, oversaw compliance, lab, bottling and product development.
Wicker moved to Starlight Distillery, distilling for Ted Huber, known for their brandies, they added a grain distillery late 2015. Distilling heirloom corn bourbon, malt whiskey, rye whiskey, rum and vodka, she was also Director of product development. She left Starlight after a year and a half, recommended by a well known Master Distiller in Kentucky, to oversee a distillery construction project as General Manager and Head Distiller, building the first craft distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky.
With the explosive growth of craft distilling, Wicker formed Saints & Monsters Distilling, her consulting firm. Clients included Samson & Surrey. She was hired by them full time as Director of Distilling and Product Development for their portfolio, then moved to Widow Jane Distillery to oversee distillery construction and expansion, production and the largest heirloom corn project for whiskey of it’s kind in the United States. Wicker personally blends every lot of the flagship ten year old, and develops new product.
Consulting Distiller for George Washington’s Distillery at Mount Vernon in Alexandria Virginia, beginning in March of 2016, after an invitation to work and visit by Steve Bashore. She has written protocol and improved quality and yield in an eighteenth century setting. She wrote the first Bourbon mash bill, based on historic records. Wicker has worked on Rye Whiskey, Peach Brandy and the first Rum project there.
Whisky Magazine “Icons of Whisky” Master Distiller/Master Blender, “Highly Commended” 2019, second highest ranking in the US by Whisky Magazine.
Wicker has three grown children, two grandsons and a couple of whiskey loving son in laws, and resides in Brooklyn, New York and Bardstown, Kentucky.