Tag Archive for illinois

Dig: Local Bourbon

Ever since I tried their Young Buck Bourbon, I’ve been wanting to visit the JK Williams distillery, a craft distiller out of nearby East Peoria, Illinois. Schedule conflicts and inclement weather made it tough, and the JK Williams line continued to grow. Finally, the Rugrats were out of town this past Sunday, and the Wife and I were looking for something to do.

Perfect time for a visit. We called another couple and the four of us made the trip.

The distillery is a small place, easy to miss on a frontage road in a row of small businesses and offices. They offer hourly tours on weekends, and though it was 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, their lobby (and bar counter) was fairly crowded with a group who just finished a tour and another group waiting to take one.

Kassi Williams started our tour with a history lesson of both the company and the whiskey business in Peoria. I knew Peoria was once the whiskey capital of the world prior to Prohibition, but the JK Williams crew, particularly the ladies, put together a nice timeline of historic photos and filled in some details I wasn’t aware of.

Then it was on to the still. I knew they were a small operation, but I didn’t realize they only had the one still. We got to see where they cooked up their mash, we smelled the results of the distillation process every step of the way, and Kassi explained the different mixes and mashes that make up their various products.

Something I really respect about them as a craft distiller is they source as much as they can locally. Their corn is local, and the fruit they use in their fruited liquors are picked by adults with special needs who work with the Tazewell County Resource Center. Way cool.

Then we got to see the aging room.

This room and the barrels were a lot smaller than I expected, too, but their output is still quite high for a four-person operation with only one full-time employee.

JK Williams called their first bourbon Young Buck because it was too young to be legally called a bourbon (bourbon must be aged at least two years). One of the owners, Jon, told me at a tasting that they used special barrels to “age the bourbon faster,” and we got to see one of those barrels: they simply drill several holes on the inside of the barrel staves to increase the surface area the whiskey is exposed to. I liked the Young Buck, but I remember finding it a bit strong to drink neat.

After seeing the aging room, we returned to the lobby bar and were invited to try a quarter ounce of up to four different products, free of charge. (Score! Cocktails were available for purchase, too.) I was eager to finally try their fully-matured bourbon and rye. Unfortunately their High Rye wasn’t available just yet; it’s due this Fall.

The ladies went straight for the fruit drinks: the Peach Whiskey, the Blackberry Whiskey, Smitty’s Apple Pie, and the new Pineapple Whiskey. A bottle of the Pineapple Whiskey came home with my wife.

I went for two of their unaged products, JK’s Corn Whiskey and JK’s Naked Rye, the Straight bourbon, and one I wasn’t aware of, JK’s Select Bourbon.

The Corn Whiskey was sweet as promised, and the Naked Rye had a spicy burn. Jesse and Kassi served up the drinks and advised mixers for both, but I’m kinda dumb and wanted to see what the whiskeys were like solo. It doesn’t make a lot of business sense to have barrels and barrels of product sitting in a warehouse doing nothing, so these products, as well as the Young Buck, give them something to market while the rest of the line matures.

The Bourbon Select, if I understood correctly, comes from a barrel chosen by the distiller, Jesse, and this one was aged 17 months. The Straight had a full two years in the barrel. I rather liked both, though it was hard to get a full sense of the flavors with just a quarter ounce sip. Just the same, I found them both pleasant, with a bit more of a burn on the Select’s finish.

In the end I opted for a bottle of JK’s Straight Bourbon and a shiny new JK Williams whiskey glass (about time I added one of those to my collection). When I got home later that night, I didn’t waste time getting it onto some ice and then mixing up an Old Fashioned.

Let me tell you, this is good stuff. I found it smooth and sweet on ice, with those wonderful, subtle hints of caramel and vanilla. Maybe I finally nailed my Old Fashioned recipe, but I was very pleased with that, too. I’m hoping to set up a tasting for myself soon to compare it to the Woodford Reserve and Four Roses Small Batch that I have on hand.

JK’s stock is appearing in several local stores, and the Young Buck is in Costco. It’s probably worth talking to your liquor store to see if they can get their hands on it. Myself, I’ll just stop on back to the distillery for another tour when the High Rye is released.

Looking for something to do in Peoria? Passing through on I-74, or willing to take a small side trip from I-39? Drop on in and check it out. The tours are open on the weekend and they’re free. If you’re at all interested in whiskey, it’s well worth the trip.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Rangers Lead the Way

In 2008, Peoria’s airport was renamed General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport. When I dropped my wife off for a trip to visit her folks, I decided to stop and find out who General Downing was.

Rangers Lead the Way

The Downing memorial statue outside the airport

Born in Peoria, Wayne A. Downing was a career Army officer who served in Vietnam and the Gulf War, and he held various roles in the modern war on terror prior to his death in 2007.

I’ve adopted Peoria as my home over the last few years, and I’ve come to enjoy learning more and more about its history and personalities. For example, Theodore Roosevelt once proclaimed Grandview Drive the most beautiful drive in the United States. Peoria also was once the whiskey capital of the US. Today, Peoria is the world headquarters for Caterpillar, even though the Illinois government is doing its best to screw that up.

How many of you live in a small town or city? Or have moved to a new home far from where you grew up? How much do you know about it? When you have a quiet day, get out there and learn something. Maybe your quiet, boring little town will surprise you.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

So Long, Asshole!

First Bush is finally out, and now Blagojevich has been removed from office. It’s been a good month.

Sun-Times screenshot

Bonus: Moments after he was voted out of office, the Illinois Senate voted to disqualify Blago from holding any future office in the state.

Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, douche.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Made My Voice Heard

I Voted!
Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

The Wife and I just finished voting over my lunch break. I was the 317th person to vote in our precinct, which isn’t half bad considering there are only 2000 people in our town and the eligible voters are split across two precincts. No lines, just walked up, they verified my address, someone else verified my signature, and I was handed my ballot. Only waiting I had to do was for the Wife to finish so she could keep an eye on the Little Bird while I voted.

I’m glad we don’t have to deal with touchscreens here. I hear way too many nightmares about improperly calibrated electronic voting machines, and I just don’t trust e-voting yet. Our county is using the old-fashioned, fill-in-the-bubble paper ballots. They take a little longer to fill out because of the ovals that have to be filled in, but they’re simple to use and easy to read. Tampering would have to come from the whole precinct of judges, judging by the roll of paper tape signed by several officials and taped to the tabulating machine. My ballot is my paper trail,whether or not I have it in hand, and there’s no problem down the road of misinterpreting hanging chads.

As for the votes themselves, I stuck to my guns and voted Barr. The Wife and I may very well be the only two Barr votes in the precinct — maybe even the county — but that’s fine. That’s what the process is about, as far as I’m concerned. Then we both chose independent parties for as many seats as we could; everything local only had Republicans running, which gives you a good picture of our county. I also voted yes to recommend our legislature write a concealed carry firearms law, and no to our state setting up a new Constitutional Convention.

This next bit will probably only be of interest to Illinois citizens. I’ve heard via Twitter that some folks heard on the news that there was a handout to go with the Constitutional Convention ballot item, replacing the wording that appears on the ballot itself. At least two people said they didn’t get that handout. Our precinct did have it: they posted it inside each polling booth and they also handed every voter a laminated copy which was turned in when the ballot was placed in the machine. For those wondering, it wasn’t a drastic change. I read the original wording out of curiosity, and it explains that the vote in 1988 was shot down by a margin of 75% against to 25% in favor. I’m guessing they didn’t want that to influence the vote, but the handout also mentioned “inaccuracies” so maybe those numbers were off. Either way, in my opinion there’s nothing that can’t be changed through the current legislative process, and our state budget is already screwed up enough that we don’t need to be spending the money on the Constitutional Convention. It’s good to have the right to vote on rewriting the State Constitution every 20 years, but I don’t think it needs to be exercised at this time. Your mileage may vary.

Now I’m wearing my “I Voted” sticker around the school, as are all the teachers who have voted so far. It’s important to set that example for the students. There are enough adult voters who don’t bother, so we best start motivating the next generation before it’s too late.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Fleeting Moment

The mandatory moment of silence established in Illinois schools as part of the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act has now been formally challenged. I’ve already said my piece on the act, so I’ll only repeat that it was only a matter of time before this happened.

And the waste of time, money, and resources continues.

On a side note, according to a Pantagraph article, there isn’t even a penalty for failing to observe the moment of silence. Doesn’t that make the law pointless anyway?

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.