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.
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’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.
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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.