Webinar: Heirloom Rye Panel



What?: As rye whiskey emerges from the shadow of bourbon and has established itself as a significant American spirits category in its own right, distillers and farmers are working together to revive venerable heirloom rye varieties and create points of differentiation within the booming category. Our panel will explore four distinctive heritage grains that are bringing new flavor experiences to the rye-whiskey-drinking public.

When?: Tuesday, May 10th at 3 PM Eastern

How Much?: Complimentary to ACSA members, $59 for non-members


Scott Blackwell, High Wire Distilling

Founded by husband and wife team, Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall, High Wire was born of a desire to introduce small batch, handmade, craft spirits to South Carolina.  A lifelong “serial entrepreneur,” Scott recently sold his former business, a natural and organic bakery called Immaculate Baking Company, to General Mills.  The couple quickly began developing business plans for the distillery, an endeavor that allowed them to combine their passion for small business with their love of high quality artisan spirits.

High Wire Distilling is producing a distinctive line of small batch spirits using specialized ingredients.  Scott, a Culinary Institute of America trained baker, applies his knowledge of artisanal grains and culinary techniques to the spirits he creates. With a main focus on local, unique ingredients, the distillery also features an apothecary area where experimental bench formulas can be created and tested in a small-scale format.  In addition to their core products, High Wire also produces a series of limited edition creations only available at certain times of the year.

Located in the heart of historic downtown Charleston, SC, High Wire Distilling Company is dedicated to making premium, small batch spirits.  Their approach is simple:  seek the finest ingredients available and develop recipes using a creative, culinary approach.  All of their products are batch distilled in a hand-hammered, German copper still to create the finest Southern spirits available.

Jay Erisman, New Riff Distilling

Thirty years of passionate study in whiskey led Jay Erisman to co-found New Riff Distilling in Newport, Kentucky, where he serves today as Vice President Strategic Development, head blender, distiller and fourth string truck driver. From 2001 to 2014, Jay ran the groundbreaking fine spirits and education program at iconic Kentucky liquor retailer The Party Source, working closely with Kentucky’s Bourbon distilleries to create new whiskeys. As a whiskey writer, Jay’s work has appeared in Whisky Advocate and Distiller among other publications.


Laura Fields, Delaware Valley Fields Foundation

In January of 2013, Laura Fields founded the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation as an organization committed to helping the region’s agricultural industry.

Laura established the Foundation’s mission with two main objectives. The first was to help provide an economic jumpstart for local farmers by creating partnerships and opportunities with locally producing agricultural industries. The second was to educate the public on the important role that local agriculture plays in the well-being of the region.

Laura has identified the fast-growing whiskey distilling industry as a potential growth partner for Pennsylvania farmers. Her foundation works to create a bridge between the two industries.

To accomplish the goal of being an economic catalyst, Laura created the innovative SeedSpark Project™. The first task of the SeedSpark initiative is to revive lost cereal grains and bring them back into full scale production. For the first years of the program, the focus has been on rye – an historically important whiskey grain for Pennsylvania. The Delaware Valley Fields Foundation has partnered with Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences to revive a heritage grain called Rosen Rye. That partnership has turned a handful of seeds into nearly 60,000 pounds of Rosen rye (2021’s harvest). This grain has now been shown to contribute exceptional flavor in whiskey, and its economic viability looks very promising.

By providing the initial funding and resources that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, Laura Fields and the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation’s SeedSpark Project is giving farmers the opportunity to create regionally exceptional products with worldwide appeal. The SeedSpark Project continues to identify heritage grains that can thrive in the Pennsylvania’s diverse microclimates and serve as a benefit to the Pennsylvania’s agricultural economy.

The second phase of the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation’s mission is reminding the local region about the importance of local farming for the region’s economy. The Foundation does this primarily through special events that highlight farming and local production.

The nexus of this idea is an event created by Laura Fields called the American Whiskey Convention in Philadelphia. The AWC brings together whiskey distillers, farmers, maltsters and local artisans in the largest event of its type in the country. The general public attends this grand tasting event to sample the finest American-made whiskeys in the country while meeting the farmers who grow the grains used in their production. Each attendee learns that their favorite whiskey would not exist without grain farmers and a successful agricultural economy to support each distillery.

By following through on Laura Fields’ vision, the DelVal Fields Foundation hopes to play a role in helping regional agriculture be a part of the Delaware Valley’s economic success.

A native of the Delaware Valley, Laura holds a degree in Fine Arts from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She has worked with different farming related activities for the past 20 years. She also hosts historical whiskey events and is often called upon for her expertise in American and Pennsylvanian whiskey history.

Tom Potter, New York Distilling Company

Tom Potter has been an active supporter of the ACSA since its beginning, chairing the Election Committee & coordinating the first two national elections, and moderating the first general meeting Town Hall at ACSA’s inaugural conference.  He’s also been active with the NY State Distillers Guild since its first organizational meeting, serving on the Board and on the marketing committee.

In addition to supporting the ACSA and the NY state guild, Tom helped to start the Empire Rye Whiskey Association and New York Rye Week.   Before co-founding NY Distilling he was co-founder of the Brooklyn Brewery, where he served as chairman & CEO for its first 17 years.  And before that – a long time ago – he was a freshly minted MBA and junior banker, wondering what he was going to do with his life and thinking there had be something more rewarding than moving money around.   Thankfully, it turned out there was.  

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