While we’ve seen a flood of vodkas produced from all kinds of things—including grapes, soy and even maple syrup—whiskey, no matter where it’s distilled, is usually made from rye, wheat, corn, barley or a combination of these grains. But there is now a movement to make the liquor from a range of exotic ingredients. Here are a few we’ve found.
Though many brands start with corn, the only one we know of using blue corn is Balcones Distilling in Waco, Texas. Both its Baby Blue (pictured above) and True Blue Cask Strength expressions, as well as the new True Blue 100-proof, call exclusively for the stuff. “What we’re doing is all about the corn,” says Chip Tate, Balcones’ founder, president and head distiller.
Koval is Chicago’s first craft distillery since Prohibition and has distinguished itself with its line of single-grain Lion’s Pride whiskies. Some of the varieties, such as rye and wheat, are familiar, but others, including oat, millet and spelt, are not. For even more options, there are two versions of each whiskey, one aged in a lightly toasted barrel and another in a heavily charred barrel.
Queen Jennie Sorghum Whiskey ($35):
The Old Sugar Distillery in Madison, Wisc., has introduced a number of interesting bottlings like the smooth Queen Jennie Sorghum Whiskey that has hints of sweet toffee. The base is, you guessed it, 100 percent sorghum, and the alcohol is matured in small charred-oak casks from Minnesota. It’s currently available on-site but will be more widely distributed this November.
For several years, Charbay has been experimenting with distilling craft beer into whiskey. The latest spirit, which was just released and is a potent 99-proof, begins as Racer 5 IPA from Bear Republic Brewing Co. As a result, it’s full of wonderful baking-spice and hops notes.