Sometimes something special happens. Something amazing, something cool. It happened to me just a few days ago. Why? What happened? Simple. I met Gary Hinegardner.
Gary is the man behind Wood Hat Spirits. And I had (hat?) the fortune to meet him at last week’s ACSA Convention in Pittsburgh. Why I enjoyed meeting him? Why it felt as something special? Because Gary is real. Because Gary makes an amazing product. He succeeded in harvesting a taste that I have been searching for over half a decade. I found it in Gary’s All American (Red, White & Blue) Corn Whiskey.
Wood Hat Spirits is situated in Montgomery County, Missouri, and certified for mashing, fermenting, and distilling on the distillery’s location. He runs the only wood fired still in the county. In the county and probably in the state. Right, he is not using an iStill! How could he? This is a man that makes wooden hats as a hobby.
Wood fired still? That’s not what make’s Gary’s whiskey special. At least not to me. What I tasted, when I first tried his All American (Red, White & Blue) Corn Whiskey, was taste. not just any taste. A taste I had been looking for, for a long time.
I am a fan of Bourbon. Well, there are a few Bourbon’s I am fan of. Exact phrasing is important. Usually those few out there that are actually pot distilled, those are the ones I like. It seems to give a more original, a deeper, three dimensional flavor profile.
Sometimes, when drinking a pot distilled Bourbon, there is, at least when I taste it, something fine, special even, lurking at the horizon. A taste that is wet, dirty almost. Moldy? On the far side of the sip: when it leaves the mouth and enters the throat. Not talking about the fruity first notes at the front of the mouth. Not talking about the sweetness, mostly sugar and/or American oak wood, induced in the middle of a tasting. Talking about what happens – sometimes – at the back on your palate. My palate, actually.
For years I have been trying to isolate that taste. That moldy, dirty flavor at the back. Without success. Why? Because European corn is basically stock feed corn. Yellow, high on proteins, cheap, devoid of taste.
I have worked Euro corn to the max. Introducing bacteria. Backset. Dunder pits, even. Nothing moved into the direction of what I was looking for. I knew the taste was there, somewhere in the corn, but I could not single it out, intensify it, harvest it.
Gary explained it to me. Through his stories and through his whiskey. You need great corn to start with. Not saying that’s what Americans have access to and Europeans don’t. Just saying that some Americans – yes, the people that actually have access to amazing varieties of corn – invest more time and energy and actually get to where I have been trying to arrive. What makes Wood Hat’s Corn Whiskey special? It has all of that beautiful complex, wet and dirty, almost moldy flavor. Not just at the back of the palate, no, all over the drink.
This email is dedicated to Gary and his great whiskey. Thank you for showing me how blue corn, and white corn, and red corn start where ordinary yellow corn stops. Thank you for bringing a product to the market that is probably not to the liking of the general public as much as you would hope. Or as much as the drink deserves.
To me it was a revelation. Your drink should have won a medal above gold. Thanks for sharing your story with me. Thanks for sharing your drink. It is truly as you said: “Why don’t we make whiskey out of something that people have traditionally eaten?” As opposed to the commodity crop yellow dent corn we currently use to make whiskey—the same corn we use for Doritos, high fructose corn syrup, and fattening up feedlot cows. Guess what? The Euro corn is just that: the corn used for Doritos, high fructose corn syrup, and fattening up feedlot cows …
Garry, with wooden hat … and whiskey …
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The amazing Wood Hat All American Corn Whiskey …