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Southern Sp rits Craft Distillers Standout with Sorghum

by Jennifer Blackburn E

volving, innovative and premium, the distilled spirits industry is seeking new players with new fl avor. Cultural transformations in the distilled spirits and brewing industries are taking place

across America, and it has some distillers honing in on a familiar, southern taste—sorghum. Its fl avor and fermentability make sweet sorghum

unique, and it is quickly becoming a standout ingredient for many whiskey and rum producers. “Distillers are doing everything they can to distin-

guish themselves from others,” said Bill Owens, founder and president of the American Distilling Institute. “If people want to be diff erent and have diff erent fl avor, they can use sorghum.” Ann Marshall co-founder of High-Wire Distilling Co.

in Charleston, South Carolina, said she and her husband Scott previously owned a bakery where they used sor- ghum in cookie and brownie dough and knew it was the best candidate for their new distilling business given its rich history in the south. “Sorghum whiskey was the third product we ever

made,” Ann said. “It’s an incredibly rich and complex spirit that has become quite the cult classic around the country. We can hardly keep it in stock!” High-Wire Distilling’s award-winning New Southern

Revival brand sorghum whiskey is made from Tennes- see-grown sweet sorghum. It is a single source product Ann said is a distinguishing characteristic because the farm harvests and juices the whole sweet sorghum plant, stalk and grain, in the fi eld as one process. T e grain component qualifi es it as a whiskey.

“Because of this specialized, whole plant process,” she

said, “[the farm’s] sorghum syrup is the most unique we have ever encountered, and we have been unable to source anything else quite like it.” Jerod Smith of Wilderness Trail Distillery in Danville,

Kentucky, produces a 100 percent Kentucky-made rum from sorghum molasses aged in bourbon barrels. He said all great rums are made from sugarcane, and while few are made from sorghum, he prefers its unique fl avor. “You really get all the fl avors from the sorghum

molasses,” Smith said. “It’s so much more fl avorful than regular sugarcane.” Smith said sweet sorghum is the perfect base for rum

partly because the glucose found in sweet sorghum stalks is an incredibly fermentable sugar. “Our grower is a third-generation sorghum farmer,”

Smith said. “It’s in his bloodlines to grow sorghum, and he really has that know-how to grow and harvest sor- ghum and produce the juice that he boils down to gener- ate that really good sugar we turn into rum.” David Weglarz, founder of Still 630, has been chasing

his American dream as a craſt distiller since 2011 and said he tried to distill everything he could at fi rst, then sweet sorghum came to his attention through the man who built his still. “I started looking for new and interesting products,”

he said, “and I was told about it, and I said ‘yeah, send me fi ve gallons of it, and we will see what happens.’” Weglarz said his experiment batch lead to several

more fi ve gallon buckets and a bigger batch of whiskey that was aged in small barrels for approximately one year.

“Distillers are doing everything they can to distinguish themselves from others. If they want to be diff erent and have diff erent fl avor, they can use sorghum.”

“ 30 SORGHUM Grower Fall 2015

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