Barrel Room Chronicles
Jan. 21, 2022

BRC EP 3 – J.K. Williams Re-Birth

On this episode of Barrel Room Chronicles, we discover the long lost  whiskey history of Peoria, Illinois. Andy Faris and Jeff Murphy join me  in a conversation about how they are working to bring back one of the  cities greatest distilleries from pre-prohibition era. Plus, Chef Louise  Leonard chats with me about her cooking creation using the wheat  whiskey expression from JK Williams Distilling.

Barrel Room Chronicles is a production of 1st Reel Entertainment and is distributed  by Anchor.FMand is available on Spotify, Apple, Google, iHeartRadio, Amazon and wherever fine podcasts are heard.

Theme song: Kentucky-Bluegrass-Mornin Composer: Clay Tyler Smith © Pond5.com


On this episode of Barrel Room Chronicles, we discover the long lost whiskey history of Peoria, Illinois. Andy Faris and Jeff Murphy join me in a conversation about how they are working to bring back one of the cities greatest distilleries from pre-prohibition era. Plus, Chef Louise Leonard chats with me about her cooking creation using the wheat whiskey expression from JK Williams Distilling.

   

 

 

GUEST(S) BIO

Andy Faris

A Minnesota native and a whiskey enthusiast,  Andy Faris worked most of his career in the tech world. Prior to serving as President of JK Williams Distilling Andy most recently served as COO of Network Republic, a reseller of new and refurbished IT equipment. He moved to Peoria in 2019 to take on the role of President of JK Williams Distilling and has been working to restore whiskey to the “Whiskey Capital of the World” ever since.

 

Jeff Murphy

Jeff’s story is one JK Williams himself would be proud of. He got his start as a brewer before the age of 21 while serving as a medic in the Navy. During one stay in port, grateful Marines slipped Jeff his first craft beer, and before long he was operating a tiny craft brewery out of his locker. That 5-gallon fermenter may not have been a bootleg whiskey empire, but it was fueled by the same spirit that kept distilling alive during Prohibition.

Over the years, Jeff followed his passion and worked for a brewpub in Singapore and brewed professionally with Asia-Pacific Breweries there for a few years.

Upon returning to the United States, Jeff made the jump from brewing to distilling, first in whiskey and vodka and eventually in rum. After nearly a decade in the business, Jeff was put into contact with our team and he moved to Peoria in September 2020.

Today, Jeff runs our distillery, turning the ingredients we buy and the ideas we have into the drinks we sell and serve. He oversees everything from milling and cooking grain to filtration and quality control to barreling and bottling finished products.

Whenever you open a bottle of JK Williams liquor, you’re tasting the result of years of experience and dedication to the craft — and a passion for distilling that’s still going strong after more than 100 years.

 

About JK Williams Distilling

Located in Peoria, Illinois, the one-time “Whiskey Capital of the World,” JK Distilling is the oldest craft distillery in the Greater Peoria area. The brand can trace its roots back to Bootician and Prohibition Legend J.K Williams, who made whiskey in Peoria, an area known for its high-quality grains and plentiful water source. Through Prohibition and subsequent years, Williams’ famous century-old recipe was passed on to generations of descendants. Current Owners Andy Faris and Stacy Shunk Faris are honoring the Williams family tradition with the release of Gold Zephyr Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Stormy River High Rye Whiskey, crafted under the care of Head Distiller Jeff Murphy. For more information, visit: jkwilliamsdistilling.com or follow on social @jkwilliamsdistilling.

 

PRESS

JK Williams Distilling Launches New Spirits Lineup, First Wheat Whiskey

American Wheat Whiskey is the first in Bridge Series

Illinois-based JK Williams Distilling is releasing two new spirits including its first American Wheat Whiskey which will kick off the distillery’s Bridge Series.  In addition to honoring the Murray Baker Bridge in its hometown of Peoria, the series is also a way to celebrate recipes that bootlegger J.K. Williams created over 100 years ago while moving towards the future of JK Williams Distilling.

“Each expression in The Bridge Series will consist of a blend between products we’ve kept in barrels over the years with a newer American Wheat Whiskey,” said JK Williams’ Head Distiller Jeff Murphy. “So, yes, we are bridging the gap between old and new with this series, all while we wait for our other products to continue to age.”

“We’re continuing to honor the heritage and rich history of Peoria, Illinois,” said JK Williams President Andy Faris. “Everything we do ties back to a deeper story and furthers our goal of bringing the art of distilling back to the area.”

About the new spirits:

The Bridge Series: American Wheat Whiskey is a 95% wheat whiskey with a nose that offers vanilla, cinnamon, and toffee, bringing forward the caramel, vanilla, and honey notes in the flavor. This whiskey has a medium finish with warm chocolate and spiced fruit. 94 proof.

The Bridge Series: American Wheat Whiskey will be available for purchase at select Illinois retailers. The first iteration of the series is an American Wheat Whiskey and is the third product JK Williams Distilling has released since initially launching in the fall of 2020.

 

JK Williams Distilling Wins Best Illinois Whiskey

The Peoria-based distillery takes top honors in Heartland Whiskey Competition

Peoria-based JK Williams Distilling took home “Best in State” honors for its Gold Zephyr Bourbon in the American Craft Spirits Association (ASCA) Heartland Whiskey Competition. The competition was open to craft whiskeys from all 50 states who incorporate corn in their mash bill. The Best in State trophies were limited to 17 Heartland states and awarded to those whiskeys with the highest single-product score in its respective state, regardless of whiskey category.

“Not many people know that Peoria was once the ‘Whiskey Capital of the World’ producing more whiskey than the entire state of Kentucky,” said JK Williams President Andy Faris. “It’s an honor to be able to bring this award back to the city of Peoria, which has such a rich history of distilling.”

JK Williams’ whiskey will soon be available statewide through a new partnership with Heritage Wine Cellars in Chicago and G&M Distributors in Northeast Illinois. The brand, which pays homage to Peoria’s rich distilling history, has been available at retail throughout Central IL and has plans to continue its expansion as it heads into 2022.

Whiskey fans will be able to find the newly released Bridge Series, an American Wheat Whiskey, and Gold Zephyr Straight Bourbon Whiskey at retail outlets including Chicagoland Binny’s this fall.

 

About the Spirits:

The Bridge Series: American Wheat Whiskey is a 95% wheat whiskey with a nose that offers vanilla, cinnamon, and toffee, bringing forward the caramel, vanilla, and honey notes in the flavor. This whiskey has a medium finish with warm chocolate and spiced fruit. 94 proof.

Gold Zephyr Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a four-year bourbon made with notes of dark cherries, light tobacco, and honeysuckle with fresh mint bursting through on the nose. The finish is long and warm with oak tannins and hints of berries using an 80% local corn, 10% wheat, 10% malted barley mash bill. Both whiskeys are presented at 90 proof and are made using the original century-old recipes created by Bootician J.K. Williams.

 

Dram Diaries recourse link:

https://www.jkwilliamsdistilling.com/brand-story

 

Barrel Room Chronicles is a production of 1st Reel Entertainment and is distributed by Anchor.FMand is available on Spotify, Apple, Google, iHeartRadio, Amazon and wherever fine podcasts are heard.

Theme song: Kentucky-Bluegrass-Mornin Composer: Clay Tyler Smith © Pond5.com

--- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/barrelroomchronicles/support

Barrel Room Chronicles is a production of 1st Reel Entertainment and can be seen or heard on Anchor, Spotify, Apple, Google. Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Breaker, Public Radio and more.

Barrel Room Chronicles is a production of 1st Reel Entertainment and can be seen or heard on Anchor, Spotify, Apple, Google. Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Breaker, Public Radio and more.

Transcript
Transcript

BRC Ep 3 - Text Transcript

Kerry: [00:00:00] Welcome to the barrel room Chronicles. I'm Kerry Moynahan as certified bourbon steward, former bartender and all around whiskey aficionado. I traveled the world to explore whiskey from every avenue for the last 20 years. I've been helping others tell their stories through television, film, and other media, but now I'm taking my love for whiskey and my experience in the entertainment industry to uncover the fascinating stories of the water.

So kick off your shoes, pour yourself a DRAM and join me for this episode of barrel room Chronicles.

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Kerry: It is five o'clock somewhere. And you've tuned into episode three of BRC today in our tails from the still segment I speak with Andy Ferris and Jeff Murphy of JK Williams distillery. And later in the show, I'll speak with chef Louis Leonard in today's world of queasy. But first up is DRAM diaries. Stay with us.

over 100 years ago, Peoria, Illinois was the whiskey capital of the world and home to more than 73 distilleries legend has it that the tax on distilled spirits produced in Peoria alone accounted for nearly half the revenue of the entire federal government at its time. Therefore, it's easy to say that whiskey was a very big deal and.

Many wealthy distillers and brewers lived there, funding projects that built landmarks that you can still visit [00:02:00] today. One such distiller was JK Williams whose recipes helped Peoria earn recognition for not only a large quantity of product, but also the quality of the whiskey it produced. But as we all know, things changed drastically in the spirits industry.

In 1920, when the 18th amendment prohibited the production and sale of alcohol Williams was one of the many distillers who moved his operations into the. Continuing to produce and sell quality whiskey. Despite the harsh penalties during prohibition, he continued his operation for a number of years, but eventually fearing gangsters like Al Capone.

He left his Backwoods operation and moved his family to Decatur nearly a hundred years later. His great grandsons discovered the family's whiskey recipes and created JK Williams, distilling a modern day homage to the golden age of whiskey. And. However, just before the COVID pandemic hit in 2019, the Williams family sold the distillery to Andy and Stacy Ferris who proudly continue to make the brands whiskey using the original recipes first created by JK Williams.

Up next entails [00:03:00] from the still we speak with owner Andy Ferris and master distiller, Jeff Murphy about their journey and their plans to keep the JK Williams legacy alive. Stay with us.

Well, hello gentlemen, I have the pleasure of speaking today with the owner and master distiller at J K Williams, distilling. Uh, Andy Ferris is the owner say hi, Andy. Hi, Carrie. And then Jeff Murphy is a master distiller. Gary, how are you doing? I'm great. So, uh, as we always start out, I wanted to talk to you guys about your whiskey journeys.

Now, Andy, I was reading your bio. I don't see much whiskey in involved in your bio.

Andy: Oh, there you go.

Kerry: We were heavily in the,

Andy: well, it was very much, uh, and worked for a British networking company for 15 years. And so. I started to start at really on single malt that I, I love and it's evolved [00:04:00] into a love of bourbon and other American whiskey.

And so, um, but it started with really being exposed to single malts, um, in the UK and Europe.

Kerry: Okay. And so how did being, I'm an it guy. How did you take that leap into turning your career into the president of JK Williams distilling when you,

Andy: when you spend 35 years doing the same thing and you get a little burned out, you start thinking, you start dreaming about other avenues that might, that might you start going.

The runway is getting limited. This might be. More fun. So they said this will be fun. So I'll go ahead though. So I, I just, I started looking into starting a distillery and really knew nothing. And Jeff May say I still know nothing, but, but I, I do. I mean, I, I, I knew a fair bit about, uh, [00:05:00] The industry and had a little bit of background.

I was on the board of directors of a, of a craft brewer in Fort worth, Texas. Um, so know a little bit about the, uh, alcohol industry, but really did not have any of the pieces put together. And I was just looking around, I was at an, uh, mergers and acquisitions, uh, conference in Minneapolis in 2015. About the distilling industry.

And my name was on a list and I got contacted at some point about this opportunity to acquire distillery. That's it started it towards the end of 2017 and, uh, a lot of stops and starts. And I, we ended up, um, acquiring this in April of 2019.

Kerry: Wow. How fun. So, uh, when you acquire. What stayed was the distillery in when you received it?

Andy: Well, it was on hiatus. So the owners had, um, I affectionately call it run out of gas, but they, they had some health problems. They had [00:06:00] families, they had full-time jobs. And, um, we, I saw a lot of potential. There's a lot of, um, inventory there. I saw an opportunity to rebrand it and, um, it was really built to be a boutique.

With not a lot of expansion capability. And so our original concept was let's let's let's see, what does this look like? Reimagine, who do we need? Um, and how can it be a multi-state and a regional kind of powerhouse in the future? What do we need to get there? And so, Uh, that took a lot of planning. A lot of, you know, we acquired in April of 2019, we didn't launch until relaunch.

The company never went out of business. Um, it was just on hiatus, stop production. So, um, we relaunched with products in the market. Um, a year ago, October.

Kerry: Wow. That's pretty cool. [00:07:00] And then Jeff, you seem to have, uh, a bit more of the distilling and brewing background. Um, I see that you were a Navy man, and, um, there was something about a five gallon fermentor that you were doing at

Jeff: worst.

Bruin a bag. It was a burlap bag type thing, and he just poured hot water in it. And it went through the grains and then fermented in the bottom. And I had that hanging in my local. Uh,

Kerry: I know when I read that in your bio, I was just, I started laughing because I just was watching an old episode of mash and it was the one right after radar left the show and BJ Honeycutt goes nuts and he breaks the still and Hawk.

I was like, you and I, and I thought, I'm like, oh God sacrilege. So when I saw that you were a Navy man making your own stuff, I was like, oh yeah, it's like mesh.

Jeff: Yep. It was a lot of fun. It was a stress reliever when I was doing it back [00:08:00] then and ended up being a career. So,

Kerry: so how did you take this, this five gallon fermenter in your locker and turn it into a career in whiskey?

Jeff: I guess what fascinated me the most was, you know, in the mid nineties, in the craft brew industry, uh, you know, one of them, the one that really got me started was Pete's wicked ale back then. It was only seasonal, only came out in the fall. Um, it was a brown ale if I remember. Right. And, uh,

Andy: uh, I

Jeff: grew up drinking, well, illegally drinking home.

We'll go down a path, you know, you know, the cheap stuff, you know, Keystone and Schlitz and stuff like that. And I went down to the hydroplane races in San Diego when I was stationed out there. And the Marines, couple of Marines were, uh, doing their, uh, their table volunteering to celebrate. And I tried to go up there with my military ID and they saw that I was underage and they they're like I was 20 at the time.

And, uh, so close, you know, that close [00:09:00] and that we were able to drink on base. We just couldn't drink off base. So anyway, long story short is they started sneaking me. They found out I was a hospital corpsman. They started passing me up, selling beers and said, just don't get drunk, you know? And so, but at case that stuff, and it was really, really good.

And that kind of got my start. So whenever I had the. Uh, whenever I was, uh, stationed someplace where I can get supplies, I'd try to do it. So one was a little bit difficult. So it was Hawaiian at the time. Um, crafter wasn't really big out there in those nets in the early nineties, mid nineties. So, and then we moved back to Maryland.

Uh, I took it up more. Full-time when I was a police officer and as a stress-reliever trace, my wife and the kids out of the house, they didn't like the smell. So it was just me and the dog going to be here on the weekends. And the, and then we got transferred to Singapore. Uh, that's where it became career.

So I was brought on as a assistant. Brewer scrubbing floors. And

Kerry: you were a cop and you got transferred to Singapore while my wife was still in the [00:10:00] military. So

Jeff: yeah, no. So we did seven years in Maryland and six of those five and a half of those were police officer out there. And then, uh, so when we got to Singapore, that's how I started.

I got hired on, I was in the brew club and a little brew pub down there, uh, lost their assistant brewer. And I was the one that came in with samples to taste, you know, went home. Yeah. He took me across the street and said, let's go for a walk and went to the owner, said I want him so nice. So I did that and bring in Singapore for a few years and done a little bit in Texas when we got back from Singapore.

And then I jumped into distilling in San Antonio.

Kerry: Okay. So how long ago was this? Uh,

Jeff: that was 2010, 11 years. Yeah. 11 years to stealing and, you know, three, I was looking for a brew pub temporarily in San Antonio. So I, you know, 14, 15 years of Berlin to bring into selling, I should say. Um, now when I was at Rebecca Cook there, we started [00:11:00] doing vodka.

We, uh, rectifying vodka and then basically single malt whiskey. And I was doing it from a point of view of a craft brewer. So I was already mixing the grains together and everything else trying to get different flavor profiles. And I really only made one batch there before, uh, they changed their plan.

They didn't want to be a, from scratch distillery more than want to just be a blending company. So just want to buy it and blend it, which is fine. Um, so then I moved to from like Massachusetts didn't run for a year. And then before coming here, I was in Louisiana, running Louisiana spirit. Um, for the last eight years, last two years as a operations director.

And then, uh, I was production manager basically for the six years before that. So, and now I'm here.

Kerry: So how did Andy find you or how did you find Andy

Jeff: relationship? Hey, is that commercial indeed. So, you know, I was already [00:12:00] trying to find an avenue out of still. Louisiana Spears got bought out by stolen group.

Uh, and after, you know, a year and a half or so of the, uh, corporate life, I was burning out myself and didn't want to be part of that anymore. So I was trying to find a way out and then COVID happened. So with all the cutbacks and everything else, um, I was just sitting at home and, and when things were starting to open up, I started looking for jobs and went to a few around the U S and, uh, Andy and his wife's his wife, Stacy.

Uh, now they interviewed me a couple of times on zoom. And then he said, why don't you come up and bring your wife with you? You don't want to make sure she approves as well. Um, she wife's from Kansas, I'm from Arizona. So there's direct flights from here to Phoenix and there's we're eight hour drive to Kansas to her family over there.

So it was just kind of worked out. We liked the Midwest field, so, and. They know the story of [00:13:00] JK Williams and the history of Peoria. Um, everything's there to relaunch it. It's not, you're starting a brand from scratches or already a history there that we can work with. So, uh, that was, that was a lot of the, the reason to come up here and also.

When I first came up for the interview in person, it's like, let's taste the juice to make sure I have something good to work with, start versus trying to fix something that had a problem. And they were making excellent products when they were open. So,

Kerry: oh, that's awesome. So when did they originally open and how long were they originally?

Uh, how big did they get before they were,

Andy: they were operating off a, when we say small batch. You know, this was a 60 gallon potstill. Um, oh wow. You have really small now. Uh, we'll talk about this a little bit about our future, what we've got on order and the large system that we've got coming in. But, um, that really was small batch and, and they started in [00:14:00] 2012 and really by, uh, 2017, you know, there, they were looking to move on from, from this.

It's pretty impossible to have a full-time job and do this, um, you know, on a limited scale and also have any expandability capabilities. So the possibilities were limited. So again, um, what, what I saw as exactly what Jeff saw was a legitimate story with a very rich history of the stolen here in Peoria.

Um, Again, just kind of re-imagined and relaunched. Um, and with the goal, being to reestablish Peoria as a, um, renowned whiskey making, uh, center, as it was back in its heyday prior to prohibition, when it was the whiskey [00:15:00] capital.

Kerry: So tell me this, tell everybody a little bit more in depth about JK Williams and why he's so, so JK

Andy: Williams is a, um, is a central figure as a legitimate guy, not a fictional character.

Um, like some other brands. I won't name them. Um, but a legitimate guy, he was a distiller. Some of the big distilleries in town. When prohibition came around, he had a family to support and he turned to bootlegging and continued bootlegging quietly until he ran a foul of the criminal element area, which included the infamous O'Neill brothers, but also Al Paul ran a huge bootlegging operation through Peoria, right up the Illinois river to Chicago and the rail system.

Uh, it was really an amazing, uh, time, uh, the stills, probably [00:16:00] the big commercial ones stop, but certainly not the, uh, the bootlegging operations. Yeah. Right. And so, um, he J K uh, with his nine children, uh, and family, uh, eventually fled in the middle of the night to a degree. Uh, to get away from this, like the sound of music.

I know, I know. Well, pretty much they sing too. If they did Von Trapp family,

Jeff: whatever you do, don't ask them to Andy succinctly.

Kerry: I take it. You've heard him sing karaoke night.

Andy: Unfortunately. Regrettably. And so, um, you know, the, the history here, those what really drew me to this and like all great river towns, and this was town was built on, uh, a bustling economy of corn grain [00:17:00] trade and to selling that's what built this town, not that caterpillar as everyone might think.

Um, but really the, the town was built on, on whiskey.

Kerry: Now the former owners, did they? So they chose the, the JK Williams name. Um, I'm assuming it was not on the same site, is anything that he had done?

Andy: No. No. Um, and it was, it was coincidence, but it's, uh, John. And Cassie and Jessie and anyway, but, but they, they actually, their initials were J K and the original great-great-grandfather was J K.

So it's a great coincidence. And, you know, our, our, our view on it as, um, they started a great foundation and we really want to carry on the legacy of, of the namesake of the company and make it a. As legitimate as possible on that ever try to hoodwink the public with [00:18:00] anything that isn't, you know, isn't real right.

Kerry: So let's talk a little bit about the whiskeys you have. Um, Jeff, the, I got one sample. I got three samples, but they were all the same wheat, which I hear is the new one. Um, now, did you get to make this from scratch or was this part of the, the goods you took over?

Jeff: So we have three expressions. You have the American wheat whiskey, which is our latest one.

The other two we have as a, as gold Zephyr. And our stormy river rye. And those two are original juices that we got with the barrels that we hear with the, with the firing of the company. Uh, so the, what you're casing now is an American wheat whiskey. This is part of a bridge series, which, uh, is to, you know, there's four bridges that go over the Illinois river here.

And then also it's going to bridge the gap between the lapses in production. They stopped production the end of middle of 2017, and we just started production back up again this year. So it's [00:19:00] meant to bridge that gap. So this is a, this is a blend of, of 16 barrels of our product and 16 barrels of a source product that we're blending, they're blending together.

Um, and so there are bourbons we did as well. Uh, and then this was just a wheat whiskey that we got on the market, and it's a very, uh, light it's at 94 proof. Um, and it's, uh, I tell people if you're not, if you don't like the, the bite of bourbon or rye, then this is kind of a nice. Um, entry-level like when satellite was even an easier sipping whiskey than a bourbon or a right.

Would be,

Kerry: I would have to agree with that.

Andy: And, and I, I think one of the things, um, Jeff and I, uh, again, a very tough job here. We got to sample, as we were looking to source, what are we going to blend with our American whiskey? We've got a number of a bunch of samples and. You end up getting down to the point where you say, okay, what [00:20:00] really is the best?

And so Jeff blended, I don't know how many samples, but, you know, we kept going back to this one saying this, actually this was the best. And it ended up being this 95% wheat whiskey, uh, planted. So it's 73% of the sourced wheat whiskey blended with 27 per cent of our, uh, American whiskey. And we think it's not terrific.

It's very

Jeff: good. Thank you.

And everything they did before was in small barrels. So is 23 and 30 gallon barrels is everything they did. So at 1623 gallon barrels and know 1653 gallon barrels. So that's why there's the difference as well. It's not closer to 50 to 50.

Kerry: That makes sense. I was going to say, when you were talking about the best part of the job, I have to agree because that's the best part of my job, um, to get, to not only talk to all you great whiskey makers, but to taste all the products.

Um, you know, it's really [00:21:00] great to be able to do this because especially during the pandemic. You know, all the local club tastings and, and the bars that would have tastings, they couldn't really do it anymore, or it would move online and then you had to ship stuff, but then half the time you couldn't ship stuff and it just got so convoluted.

So it was kind of nice to, um, to be able to do this with, with the makers. It was a

Andy: very difficult, I mean, you'd bring up a really good point. How difficult? Yeah, I guess had we known how difficult I'm not sure we'd be sitting here. It was a really incredibly difficult time to actually launch a product and the distributors had a horrendous 20, 20, probably most of them laid off staff and furloughed people.

And I think 20, 21 is still suffering from her a little bit of a hangover from that as things return to some sense of normalcy, but, um, you know, looking back on it, that's one thing we were, we really missed those clubs, the clubs and that word of mouth. [00:22:00] It was really difficult to hit that type of demographic, uh, because they're right there, wonderful whiskey aficionados.

And so to get those people, um, And get that word of mouth because they're fervent followers of, of new whiskeys. And so we kind of missed out on that, but we've built up, uh, uh, some great momentum here and, you know, we're really excited about where,

Kerry: well, that's what I'm here for. I'm here to help build that momentum and get the word out.

In fact, I think we need to do a cheers to that, but I just ran out of my DRAM. So, all right. Cheers to that, gentlemen.

Okay, so you have three whiskeys. Do you have other spirits or are you going to have others? We

Jeff: will. Um, you know, we're, we're keeping the formulations of the Gold's effort, bourbon and the, and the stormy river Ryan keeping those recipes the same. Cause that's what the family passed down to us. Um, [00:23:00] but as you know, it's, it's hard to be a one trick pony to a certain extent.

So no, There's plans to have single malt, uh, there's plans to do some other variations of bourbon. You know, whether it's a, um, higher corn, uh, ours is a weeded bourbon. Um, that's 80% corn, 10% wheat, 10% barley. And the rise, 90%, 80%, right. 99%, right. 10%. Yeah. So I mean, but you know, then I have a great run background as well.

So I'll be doing a rum. Some gins may be on the side, but, uh, I think really our goal we're working off those annual sand, the old equipment, which is a 60 gallon still. They had a 120 gallon stolen there for commission. So we got that up and running too. And we only have one, 240 gallon for manner. So it takes me to two weeks to basically make a barrel of spirits.

Wow. Our new system we're going to have for [00:24:00] 1000 gallon fermentors and a 1000 gallons. So with that, I'll be able to do that. And we'll have, um, you know, 10 to 12 barrels a week versus

Kerry: a barrel every two weeks. Everything on the same. Physical lot. Or do you have to have part of your distillery over here?

Part of the tasting room over here? I mean, how does that, how does that break? It's

Jeff: a, I mean, what we're, so this is an old dry clean facility, so it's 20,000 square feet, right? So, uh, you know, they had everything that we needed. So everything was kind of a reclamation project to a certain extent theater. Uh, we couldn't find a place that had Trent strains, steam fire suppression.

You know, everything that we needed, plenty of water, plenty of power to do something like this. So it was, we'd always have to bring everything in and then I'd come up for a visit. Before and looked at a few places and we knew we're going to be spending a lot of money and getting into these. And then when I was moving up here right before that, and he goes, Jeff found this perfect place.

Wait

Kerry: a minute, wait a minute. So [00:25:00] this isn't even this isn't the location that the previous owners had. You guys picked out this new place. Oh, wow. Okay. It used to be in

Jeff: east Peoria and when they closed down, they subleased everything out. So everything was crammed into one side. So even if we wanted about a

Andy: quarter, we had about a quarter of the original building in the original barrel room.

That's all we had in the end and they'd already leased out at least, you know, three quarters of the building. So we were, and we really didn't want to stay there. We wanted some expansion capability. So Jeff and I spent quite a bit of time looking around and I think reclamation project is an understatement.

And some of the buildings we looked at. You know, the puree industrial riverfront had some gigantic warehouses, but they were legitimate reclamation projects, no fire suppression, no. Any,

Jeff: everything was here when we found this one and, uh, we just had to upgrade it. Hadn't been updated [00:26:00] since the early eighties probably.

Oh wow. We still have to spend a lot of money, significant money on updating the fire suppression updates. Um, when the boilers hadn't been used for a year or so, so I'd get those reinspected and move things around, but it had everything that we needed. So, um, it really wasn't. Yeah,

Andy: I was

Kerry: going out now, I'm going to start looking for old dry, cleaner places to do my distillery.

Well,

Andy: they got particularly hard. You know, during the, we, I think we're all walking around in golf shorts and

Kerry: t-shirts, I, I was, I went through a lot more PDFs then. Yeah. There's no

Andy: dry cleaning taking place during that time. And so I, I feel bad for that, that whole business, but, uh, no, it did. We found this building it's in an industrial park, but it actually has fit the, fit, the bill for what we needed a quite nice.

So perfect. And it's got the expansion room that we needed. So,

Kerry: so, so far in this journey together with [00:27:00] JK, what has been your favorite part?

Andy: I th I think getting products to market was, was R it was a thrill. I mean, Jeff and I, well, we didn't have a bottling line. So we had to, uh, we had to search around for a bottle or, and someone said you should talk to the guys who make rum.

Out of Milwaukee. Uh, they've got a contract bottling facility and they ended up bottling our first run of products. And everyone in Illinois was making hand sanitizer, um, during that summer of 2020. Right. And so to see our products come off the line and then go, you know, introduce them to the public was, was really a lot of fun.

And then, um, when the awards started rolling, Um, at the end of 2020, once we entered a couple of competitions and then it really carried on it's carried on [00:28:00] throughout 2021. I mean, amazing. So we've been thrilled. It seems like every time we turn around, we've gotten some accolade and some recognition, which has just been great.

And it wasn't, you know, Jeff and I say, it's not about us. It's not Ferris or Murphy distilling it's JK Williams. It was really important for us. To again, reestablish Peoria as a, a place that people go, Hey, you know, check out that whiskey, if you can find it. Uh, we're only distributed in Illinois and Wisconsin today.

Kerry: So I'm one of the lucky Californians who gets to have some of this. Yes, that's awesome. Well, you know, I would definitely like to try the rice and the bourbon, if you would be so kind. Yeah.

Andy: We'll get you samples of that for sure. That'd be great.

Jeff: Our bourbon, um, we got best in state with the ACS, a Heartland whiskey awards, uh, on the bourbon.

They give out, uh, each one for a state in the [00:29:00] Midwest. And then we just

Andy: got a double, double gold rye with the 50 best. Uh, they just had one of their ride tastings. And so that was. Doing that and we're, um, run severe allocation on it, on the ride. Um, so it's, it's gone. It is, it's gone

Kerry: and it'll be a hundred mil instead of the, uh,

Andy: you'll get the full, no, you'll get the full compliment.

Jeff says he's got a. Case or two stashed away somewhere. I don't know where it is.

Jeff: I have no idea what you're talking about. I'd be flying some very weird spots in here though. Cause you know, they it's like I've, uh, it took me, this place was, I mean, for being a dry cleaners, they hadn't cleaned it themselves in about 30 years up in the rafters cleaning stuff.

And I, it took me a solid month to actually see an ironing board stuck up in a wall, a girder. And I [00:30:00] left it there just to remember, you know, Well, this place used to be, you know, so that's funny, but yeah, there's a lot of, uh, nooks and crannies around here to,

Kerry: yeah. Leveled stories, especially, uh, you know, bootleg era buildings where, you know, they go to renovate it and they pull up the floorboards and they take down a wall and they find all kinds of crazy stuff.

Andy: We had, you know, going back to the history for a second. Um, so we were the site of the world's largest whiskey. This. Uh, the great Western distillery was the largest in the world. And when Hiram Walker, when prohibition ended, Hiram Walker came in and acquired the, uh, great Western distillery site and, uh, started making, I always have a bottle on hand.

Nice. Jeff and I are going to drink this soon. I'm not sure when, but this is Walker's deluxe, distilled, uh, eight years. Or pardon me [00:31:00] aged eight years. But, um, this actually has been cracked, but we're going to actually have a drink of this in the next, uh, well, may send you a little sample this too and see.

Wow. But, um, yeah, but we've, uh, you know, Hiram Walker made a tremendous amount of whiskey out of here. And so, um, and that site is now, uh, an ethanol plant. They don't make whiskey. They're not. I'm told Jeff, Jeff and I are hoping to tour that soon. And that I'm told there's an old bar, uh, from the turn of the last century in basements.

Yeah. And all the woodcarving and

Kerry: so, oh yeah. You'll have to send us pictures.

Jeff: They still have, their old warehouses are still up in function. The risk houses are still there

Andy: in downtown. It's amazing. So cool. Yeah. We hope, we hope that there's a way to. Repurpose those and have a barrel storage there at some point, but we'll

Kerry: see.

I mean, Hey, call them up. Say we got [00:32:00] some whiskey for those

Jeff: rooms.

Andy: These are giant buildings. There's definitely room.

Kerry: Yeah. Very cool. Well, gentlemen, thank you so much for, um, sharing JK Williams story and your story about acquiring this wonderful product. Very impressed. This love this wheat whiskey. That's really, I can't wait to try the rye and the bourbon and to see the next few products that you guys rolled out.

Andy: I appreciate that so much.

Kerry: World of Weezy is up next.

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Kerry: Hey Louis, how you doing today?

Louise: I am

Kerry: good. How you doing? Good. It's so wonderful to have you on the new podcast, barrel room Chronicles, moving on from spirits of whiskey so we can continue this beautiful chat we like to do with all of these fun pairings and cooking outings that I'd like to do with you today.

We are going to talk about J K well. Which is just so fun that I really liked that the guys over there are really trying to bring back, you know, it was the w the whiskey Capitol of the world in Illinois before prohibition. And, uh, I didn't even know that. So I'm really glad that they're trying to bring it back and that wheat whiskey was great.

What'd you think?

Louise: I loved it. And I was, yeah, I was reading a little bit about their history too. And it was fascinating and I'm like, you know, I'm from Wisconsin. Those are, those are my homies. Just a little bit down south. I was [00:34:00] like really excited to sample this whiskey. And then of course, when I was thinking about how I was going to pair it, I was like, oh my gosh, well, I have to do a version of a Chicago dog.

I mean a Peoria dog. Isn't what I'm calling it because really like a little bit of the sweetness that was kind of coming through with that. That was the weeded whiskey. I thought, oh man, you know, this would be really, really good with cooked onions. So just slow, cooked, caramelized onions with a good hefty dose of that whiskey to put on top of a hot dog with some grainy mustard and about.

Typically things, you know, you got to throw the sport peppers in there. And of course it's gotta be on a poppy seed bun there's rules to these hot dogs in those parts, but I'm going to break it slightly with the whiskey stewed onions as my addition. So, yeah, that's amazing. Yeah. Well, we'll need to, we need the, we need the Vienna sausages.

We need to make those happen very

Kerry: soon. I've never had whiskey. [00:35:00] Really? Yeah, well, not, not to my knowledge. I mean, if it was in something that they didn't put it on the menu, but I, I mean, I would think I would have noticed that taste.

Louise: Yeah. Well, I would say just as a condiment, if you need something quick and simple and delicious to pair with any type of meat or fish or even veggies, if you just saute, if you get like, especially good sweet on you, like a Medallia on ya, um, or a Walla Walla onion.

Well, yes, that's where they are. Um, but if you slice them really thin and in a pan, you put a good amount of butter. Usually I cut it with a little bit of olive oil as well, and just throw a ton. I mean, you can have a pot, a big pot filled with slice audience. And if you just cook that over low heat and like, let it cook down, it'll cook down and caramelize.

And I like to add. Nice fat glug of whiskey. And then once it cooks down, all the sugars released and you get, you know, you get [00:36:00] the bougieness, you know, from the, from the whiskey and then put that on steak, put it on a burger, put it on a hot dog, put it on. Like I said, put it on whatever. I mean, if you had like roasted Brussels sprouts or something and you.

Them with a whole bunch of these caramelized whiskey

Kerry: on you, then I might actually like Brussels sprouts.

Louise: Yeah. So, yeah. So it's just a fun way to, you know, add, add booze into our, um, you know, our, our weekly,

Kerry: this totally makes me feel like I should go to the races now. And the next time we go, have you come and bring that, and then we can just pile it on the hot dogs because it just, I don't know.

It just something about what you were just describing to me, it brought me into the, to the racing.

Louise: I am a full fan of BYOC bring your own condiments. And as a matter of fact, somewhat recently, I had a hot dog and the, and where I got the dog, um, only offers ketchup and mustard. Yeah, they don't, they don't offer any of the other things.

Kerry: Pinks did not go [00:37:00] to pinks. No, no, no.

Louise: It was, it was not pinks. It was not pinks. Um, but fear not because I roll with condiments knowing this I'm like, well, I have pickled like homemade pickled chilies in my refrigerator. I have this, I've been making a fermented hot sauce. Pretty bomb that I've been kind of putting on everything these days.

I brought the sauerkraut, I'm like, oh, I'll bring my own condiments. If you're not going to provide them for me, that's not a problem. So the whisky onions would be part

Kerry: of that. Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, Louise, this is great. I really can't wait to try this because as I said, I've never, ever even knew it.

Wasn't a thing. Um, and so I can't wait to try it. And next time we go to the races, you bring the condiments, I'll get the hot dogs and until next time have a great, you have a great week. Have a great couple. And, uh, we'll see you next time with our next.

Louise: That sounds great. Cheers.

Kerry: For show notes. On today's episode, please visit www.barrelroomchronicles.com.

If you like what you heard, please rate and [00:38:00] subscribe to the podcast. If you really liked it and want to show your support via whiskey through our co-PI site. If you work in the whiskey industry or run a whiskey bar or club, and you'd like to be featured on barrel room Chronicles, registered to be a guest through our website.

Thanks for joining me. And until next time, saliva

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Andy Faris Profile Photo

Andy Faris

Owner of JK Williams Distilling

A Minnesota native and a whiskey enthusiast, Andy Faris worked most of his career in the tech world. Prior to serving as President of JK Williams Distilling Andy most recently served as COO of Network Republic, a reseller of new and refurbished IT equipment. He moved to Peoria in 2019 to take on the role of President of JK Williams Distilling and has been working to restore whiskey to the “Whiskey Capital of the World” ever since.

Jeff Murphy Profile Photo

Jeff Murphy

Master Distiller

Jeff’s story is one JK Williams himself would be proud of. He got his start as a brewer before the age of 21 while serving as a medic in the Navy. During one stay in port, grateful Marines slipped Jeff his first craft beer, and before long he was operating a tiny craft brewery out of his locker. That 5-gallon fermenter may not have been a bootleg whiskey empire, but it was fueled by the same spirit that kept distilling alive during Prohibition.

Over the years, Jeff followed his passion and worked for a brewpub in Singapore and brewed professionally with Asia-Pacific Breweries there for a few years.

Upon returning to the United States, Jeff made the jump from brewing to distilling, first in whiskey and vodka and eventually in rum. After nearly a decade in the business, Jeff was put into contact with our team and he moved to Peoria in September 2020.

Today, Jeff runs our distillery, turning the ingredients we buy and the ideas we have into the drinks we sell and serve. He oversees everything from milling and cooking grain to filtration and quality control to barreling and bottling finished products.

Whenever you open a bottle of JK Williams liquor, you’re tasting the result of years of experience and dedication to the craft — and a passion for distilling that’s still going strong after more than 100 years.