Seasonal Spirits and Still Crazy Section Batch Notes

Seasonal Spirits & Still Crazy Batch Notes

What is rapidly becoming our favorite seasonal we ramped up for another year of hard filtering to get this batch out.

The honey is source locally from beekeepers outside of Preston, Iowa in rural Jackson County. They keep over 6,000 colonies that are spread across eastern Iowa, western Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

This Cody Road bourbon whiskey was handpicked for the project, looking for a barrel on the sweeter side. We took nearly 60 gallons of farm fresh honey and added water to it. 5 gallons at a time, we boiled the honey. This process brings some of the organic waxy material to the top in a marshmallow like foam. We sat and patiently skimmed all of the foam off until we had a clear honey solution. Then we added the honey to the barrel proof whiskey along with some water.

We let the honey and whiskey sit for a couple days to allow the natural sediment from the honey to settle in the tank. Then we filtered it top down to get a clear whiskey. This was a painstaking process. The honey would clog the filters almost immediately. When the filter clogged, the pup would force the whiskey out the seals of the filter and we had honey everywhere! Next time you’re at the distillery, ask us to see the honey whiskey stains on the walls!

Once we finally got it filtered though, we knew we were on to something special. The honey adds a nice sweetness, but it’s not overpowering. The extra filtration really smoothed out the young whiskey. While everything in the distillery was sticky, it was worth it!

We made 5,000 bottles of this seasonal. This spirit was bottled on March 24 and April 7 by: Duane, Stacey, Dave, Jon, Harlan, Erik, Tina, Tom, Steve, Sue, Don, Mary, Bob, Martha, Mary, Michael, Hedy, Chris, Ray, Andy, Dave, Mary, Kathleen, Marcia, Sharon, Pat, Bob, John, John, Sean, Scot, Ryan, and Garrett.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em! This whiskey brings the unique flavor of cherry wood smoke to our delicious rye whiskey. The result is a completely new flavor. Most people think of smoked whiskey in reference to Scotch. Scotch is made with peat moss smoked barley. The cherry wood gives this whiskey a sweetness and a barbecue-like finish. Definitely different than the traditional style of smoked whiskey.

We bottled 1,032 bottles of this limited release on January 28, 2014 and released it on February 6, 2014.

This bottling crew included: Bob, Martha, Mary, Dave, Scot, Ryan, and Garrett.

A new seasonal hit the shelf this year. It was over two years ago when Ryan gave a talk to a group of Lion’s Club members in Eastern Iowa when he met Phil Larabee. Phil’s wife Laura and her mother Diane Gravert own and operate Gravert’s Apple Basket Orchard in Sabula, Iowa. Phil suggested that if we ever wanted to do something with apples, we should contact them.

We discussed apple brandy or something of the sort. Then we stumbled across an article about Buffalo Bill Cody that said his cocktail of choice was the “Stone Fence” which is made of rye whiskey and apple cider. In fact, legend has it that it was the last drink he had before he died. After trying it and finding it delicious, we had an idea. Our rye whiskey comes out of the barrel about 100 roof and w2e add water to take it to bottling proof at 80. What if we used apple cider instead of water?

So, we contacted Gravert’s and they were all in. Laura pressed the apple cider on a Thursday morning and drove it directly to us. We immediately put it into the waiting tank of rye whiskey. It was some of the most amazing cider I’ve ever tasted and so fresh! The result is a beautiful cocktail in a bottle. The spiciness of rye marries perfectly with the sweetness of the fresh apple cider. We think this may be an annual occurrence.

We bottled 3,000 bottles of this seasonal on November 21, 2013 and released it on “Black Friday” November 29, 2013. This bottling crew included: Phil, Bob, Martha, Mary, Harlan, Dave, Scot, Ryan, Garrett, Greg, Dave, Pat, Sean, Mark, John, John, and more who we lost the list of! Tell us if we forgot you!

The third bottling of Iowa Coffee! We once again partnered with the Iowa Coffee Company in Runnells, Iowa. Tom Sibbernsen, the owner of Iowa Coffee Company, is a farmer who roasts coffee beans and sells them at the Des Moines farmers market and other places in Central Iowa.

We start with Iowa Coffee Company’s hand roasted organic Peruvian coffee. We soak the coffee in our River Pilot Vodka and then redistill it for a smooth and rich coffee spirit base. We then infuse this coffee base with more coffee, vanilla beans and cinnamon. Lastly we sweeten it up with a touch of sugar for a beautiful liqueur for the fall and winter seasons.

We hand bottled 2,577 bottles this year. This spirit was bottled on September 25 by: Harlan, Duane, Marcia, Pam, Kathy, Roberta, Dan, Dave, Matt, Mark, Dave, Deb, Matt, Mandy, Ellen, Linda, David, Michele, Nancy, Larry, Bob, Martha, Mary, Gene, Laura, Scot, Sean, Ryan, and Garrett

We’re not crazy, just bananas! We We started with our Cody Road Rye whiskey and infused it with 1,000 pounds of real bananas for about a week. The result was filtered and bottled as Mono Loco which is Spanish for “Crazy Monkey” and we think this one lives up to the name.

We bottled 1,032 bottles of this limited on June 12, June 19, and July 3, 2013 and released it on June 14, 2013.

This bottling crew included: Doug, Jo Ellyn, Bob, Martha, Phil, Mike, Stacey, Dave, Linda, John, Dave, Pat, Sharon, Jennifer, John, Jonathan, Kathy, Jim, Mary, Denise, Doug, Pat, Amy, Harlan, Holly, Randy, John, Judi, Rachel, Diana, Allison, Melissa, Ben, Kathy, Scot, Sean, Ryan, and Garrett.

Enjoyed so well last year, we knew that our Strawberry Vodka would be back this year! One of the biggest and most well known berry patches in our area is called “Pride of the Wapsi” just about 20 miles west of our distillery near Long Grove, Iowa. Pat and Lora Dierickx have a beautiful farm. In the summer they have berries and sweet corn. In the fall, they have pumpkins, corn mazes and all sorts of family fun.
With another odd year of weather we weren’t sure when production would start. Fortunately we received some sunny weather just in time to have a great harvest and move into June production.

Pat and Lora gathered up their troops and had them hand pick and hand top 320 pounds of strawberries a day for five straight days. Because the strawberries were fresh, they brought them to us daily at around 5 pm in 5 gallon buckets. Once we got the day’s distillation done, we would clean and cool the still and then load it with 320 pounds of strawberries and about 100 gallons of vodka. We left that sit in the still overnight to infuse the vodka with the rich strawberry flavor and aroma.
Then in the morning, we fired up the still and distilled the strawberry flavored vodka. The aromas in the distillery were amazing! It smelled like fresh strawberry jam all day.
The resulting distillate is a really interesting spirit. It has a huge nose. The second you open the bottle, the strawberry aroma comes pouring out. But the flavor is a little more subdued. It really opens up on the back of your palette. But what is unique about this distillation technique is that it gives you the flavor and aroma of strawberry without the sugary sweetness of artificially flavoring the vodka after distillation.

We couldn’t be more pleased with the result. This vodka with lemonade is going to be a staple at our house this summer!

We bottled 5,000 bottles of this seasonal vodka on June 12, June 19, and July 3, 2013 and released it on June 14, 2013.

This bottling crew included: Doug, Jo Ellyn, Bob, Martha, Phil, Mike, Stacey, Dave, Linda, John, Dave, Pat, Sharon, Jennifer, John, Jonathan, Kathy, Jim, Mary, Denise, Doug, Pat, Amy, Harlan, Holly, Randy, John, Judi, Rachel, Diana, Allison, Melissa, Ben, Kathy, Scot, Sean, Ryan, and Garrett.o.

The was easily our most popular seasonal to date, so we had to bring it back. We forgot what a difficult and sticky process it is to make. Which would explain wh it’s not around all the time. But it’s so delicious, we don’t mind!

It all starts with the honey. This year, our bee keepers told us that it is some of the best honey they ever had. The midwest suffered through quite a drought last summer. While that’s bad for corn, it’s great for bees! The honey was as much as 2-3% lower in moisture than normal. What’s that mean? more concentrated sugars and sweeter honey! We think if you try this year’s batch of honey whiskey next to last year’s batch, you’ll see what we mean. The whiskey is sweeter and smoother than last year and we thought that was pretty good too!

We got a little better at boiling and filtering the honey. So it wasn’t quite as sticky as last year. We made 5,000 bottles this year. That may not be quite enough! It has been selling fast.

We’ve already put our order in for more honey next year. So plan on seeing this in spring 2014 too!

This spirit was bottled on March 26, 2013 by: Pat, Mary, Harry, Bob, Martha, John, John, Dave, Andy, Harlan, Linda, Chris, Judi, Kent, Randy, Ray, Steve, Ben, Tim, Mark, Scot, Sean, Garrett and Ryan.

This seasonal was quite an adventure! We had so many people on tours and out and abotu who asked us to make rum. But because we try so hard to use local ingredients and rum is made from sugar cane or molasses, we didn’t think we’d be able to pull it off. But then we had an idea. What about sorghum syrup?

We figured that was sugar, so why not? We found a few places that were making sorghum syrup. But not in the big quantities that we would need to make enough for a full batch. Then on a drive back from Des Moines one day, we stopped at Maasdam Sorghum Mills near Lynnville, IA. They have the most amazing steam-powered sorghum press that processes the sweet sorghum juice and cooks it down to a syrup. We ordered up a 55 gallon drum to try it out and it turned out delicious.

The only problem was that sorghum syrup was going to be a very expensive way to make rum. So we decided to order extra sugar when we made coffee liqueur and ferment that along with the sorghum. So this is a hybrid of sorts.

The initial distillate left a wonderfully unique flavor with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg that almost tasted like a lightly spiced rum. We wanted to age it to give it a little color, but were fearul to cover up the flavor of the sorghum. So this spirit aged in a new barrel for only a few months.

As is the case for all of our spirits, we have to get federal formula and label approval for our spirits. So we submitted our paperwork and were denied as a rum. Turns out that in order to call it rum, 100% of the base material has to be cane sugar or cane molasses. So we couldn’t call it rum. So we went round and round trying to figure out what to call it. We came up with the name “Sorghrum” and it just stuck. We sent in the paperwork and it was approved. By the time we had waded through all of the red tape, we were within just a couple weeks of our planned February 1 release. So we sent the labels to the printer and ordered the bottles raying that everything would get here in time.

One week before release, everything arrived. So we set up for our big botling night. Only problem, a snow storm moved in! But some of our most dedicated volunteers made it anyway and we got it all bottled up. Garrett drove to Ankeny in blizzard conditions to get it to our distributors in time for the Feb. 1 release. Nothing like waiting until the last minute! But we made it and it’s a deliciously different rum for those of us stuck on the Dry Dock!

This spirit was bottled on January 30 and on February 5 by: Harlan, Mark, John, Shirley, Pat, Dave, Karen, Jon, Bob, Martha, Tom, John, Fred, Pat, Mary, Deb, Phil, Matt, Julie, Scot, Ryan, Sean, and Garrett

The first seasonal to make an annual reprise! We once again partnered with the Iowa Coffee Company in Runnells, Iowa. Tom Sibbernsen, the owner of Iowa Coffee Company, is a farmer who roasts coffee beans and sells them at the Des Moines farmers market and other places in Central Iowa.

We start with Iowa Coffee Company’s hand roasted organic Peruvian coffee. We soak the coffee in our River Pilot Vodka and then redistill it for a smooth and rich coffee spirit base. We then infuse this coffee base with more coffee, vanilla beans and cinnamon. Lastly we sweeten it up with a touch of sugar for a beautiful liqueur for the fall and winter seasons.

We hand bottled 6,000 bottles this year. The good news is we learned from the year before and did a much better job of keeping the sugar in the tanks. But we used our new bottling machine for the first time and overflowed it. So that was pretty sticky. But a big step up from the year before!

This spirit was bottled on September 18 and October 15 by: Nancy, John, Pricilla, Bob Phil, Ellen, Mandy, Don, Dianne, Joy, Karen, Dave, Bob, Mary, Pat, Ben, Melissa, Harlan, Jim, Karen, Tom, Jon, Mark, Chad, Creighton, Judi, Rachel, John, Bob, Martha, Celeste, Steve, Scot, Sean, Ryan, and Garrett

When we did our training, our mentor Dr. Klaus shared with us a beautiful recipe for a fruit infused vodka. We knew we wanted to make it someday. The only problem is that it takes a lot of fruit!

So we set out to find a farmer with a whole lot of berries. One of the biggest and most well known berry patches in our area is called “Pride of the Wapsi” just about 20 miles west of our distillery near Long Grove, Iowa. Pat and Lora Dierickx have a beautiful farm. In the summer they have berries and sweet corn. In the fall, they have pumpkins, corn mazes and all sorts of family fun.

It turned out to be a good year for this project because the spring was warm and the strawberries were ready early. Many area strawberry farmers lost a significant portion of their crop to frost because of the early growing season. But the crop did great at Pride of the Wapsi. The early arrival of berries meant we could get our hands on the berries and get our vodka out in the height of the summer season.

Pat and Lora gathered up their troops and had them hand pick and hand top 320 pounds of strawberries a day for five straight days. Because the strawberries were fresh, they brought them to us daily at around 5 pm in 5 gallon buckets. Once we got the day’s distillation done, we would clean and cool the still and then load it with 320 pounds of strawberries and about 100 gallons of vodka. We left that sit in the still overnight to infuse the vodka with the rich strawberry flavor and aroma.

Then in the morning, we fired up the still and distilled the strawberry flavored vodka. The aromas in the distillery were amazing! It smelled like fresh strawberry jam all day.

The resulting distillate is a really interesting spirit. It has a huge nose. The second you open the bottle, the strawberry aroma comes pouring out. But the flavor is a little more subdued. It really opens up on the back of your palette. But what is unique about this distillation technique is that it gives you the flavor and aroma of strawberry without the sugary sweetness of artificially flavoring the vodka after distillation.

We couldn’t be more pleased with the result. This vodka with lemonade is going to be a staple at our house this summer!

We bottled 5,000 bottles of this seasonal vodka on June 26, 2012 and released it on June 29, 2012. We knew we had to have it in hand for the 4th of July weekend!

This spirit was bottled on June 26, July 5 and August 15, 2012 by: John, Sharie, Chad, Brittany, Shanda, Martha, Robert, Courtney, Elizabeth, Pat, Nancy, Beth, Troy, Tom, Linda, Dave, Zach, Pat, Michelle, Nancy, Jane, Sandi, Rodney, Samantha, Colene, JJ, Dave, Pat, Lora, Travis, Shane, Sarah, Colleen, Trina, Melissa, John, Tom, Harlan, Ellen, Deb, John, Kaylon, Danielle, Mary, Mandy, Andy, Cindy, Jim, Jim, Cindy, Bob, Priscilla, Lisa, Susan & Mitsuru (all the way from Japan!) Linda, Dave, Scot, Judi, Rachel, Anne, Danielle, Pat, Phil, Dave, Jim, Sean, Ryan, and Garrett.

Most of the ideas for our seasonals start with us finding some local ingredients that we think we could use. Then we send an e-mail to our friends in Germany that help us with formulation and ask what we can do with it. Knowing that honey flavored spirits are the rage lately, we asked them what we could do with honey. There were a few options, but the best looked like flavoring spirits with honey after distillation.

The first plan for honey was to do a honey vodka. We put a blurb in our newsletter that we were considering honey vodka for a seasonal. Immediately, we had an e-mail from a honey producer about 30 miles up the road from us who told us they would have honey available if we wanted a local producer. We were on the phone that day laying out plans for a collaboration.

The honey is source locally from beekeepers outside of Preston, Iowa in rural Jackson County. They keep over 6,000 colonies that are spread across eastern Iowa, western Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

As we explored making honey vodka, we had the idea of going with a honey whiskey instead. Honey whiskey had been growing in the market. But we noticed that most honey whiskies were actually liqueurs because so much sugar is added. We set out to make a whiskey with a little honey added to it. Not sugar with a little whiskey added to it. The results were divine!

This short aged corn whiskey had a natural sweetness to it to start with, so we thought it would work well for the project. We took nearly 60 gallons of farm fresh honey and added water to it. 5 gallons at a time, we boiled the honey. This process brings some of the organic waxy material to the top in a marshmallow like foam. We sat and patiently skimmed all of the foam off until we had a clear honey solution. Then we added the honey to the barrel proof whiskey along with some water.

We let the honey and whiskey sit for a couple days to allow the natural sediment from the honey to settle in the tank. Then we filtered it top down to get a clear whiskey. This was a painstaking process. The honey would clog the filters almost immediately. When the filter clogged, the pup would force the whiskey out the seals of the filter and we had honey everywhere! Next time you’re at the distillery, ask us to see the honey whiskey stains on the walls!

Once we finally got it filtered though, we knew we were on to something special. The honey adds a nice sweetness, but it’s not overpowering. The extra filtration really smoothed out the young whiskey. While everything in the distillery was sticky, it was worth it!

We made 6,000 bottles of this seasonal. Our largest seasonal batch yet! This spirit was bottled on May 1, May 10, and June 12, 2012 by: Andy, Jim, Cindy, Scot, Randy, Holly, Tim, Ray, Andy, Elmer, Jane, Bonnie, Chris, Carol, Janet, Bill, Ted, Sharon, Vicki, Bruce, Chad, Andy, Tom, Scott, Nancy, Pat, Phil, Pat, Mark, Bob, Courtney, Deb, John, Tom, Scott, Chad, Kim, Harlan, Linda, Steve, Celeste, Steve, Martha, Robert, Tom, John, Mike, Amy, Bob, Mark, Melissa, Jim, Cindy, Dave, Bill, Ben, Marge, Ray, Chris, Mary, Kathy, Tom, John, Fred, Paula, Sean, Garrett and Ryan.

When our farmer Tracy Doonan had some extra rye at the end of last growing season, we decided it would be fun to do a rye spirit as a seasonal. But we weren’t sure exactly how we could tie in another local business to do it. Then we had the idea that we could get someone to mill the grain for us. That’s when our attention shifted 20 miles up river to De Immigrant Windmill, the authentic Dutch windmill in Fulton, Illinois.

The windmill is a beautiful sight to see. The intricate wooden gears that use nature’s power to spin giant millstones is impressive to say the least. The windmill is operated by community volunteers who helped bring the windmill from the Netherlands to Fulton back in 2000.

Over the summer and into the fall, we worked with the millers to arrange for the rye to be milled there. Then we brought the grain back to the distillery for mashing and fermenting. We distilled the whiskey and put it into new, charred barrels. About half of it was then transferred to used Cody Road Bourbon barrels for the last 2 months of aging. The final bottling blended all of the spirit together.

The result is an interesting study in rye grain. Most rye bourbons blend as much as 30-40% corn to take the spicy edge off the grain. But this spirit is 100% rye. It is has a spicy mouth feel, especially on the roof of your mouth and back of your throat. But it is clean and smooth down your throat. We find that letting it sit in the glass for a few minutes is worth the wait. Even without ice, it opens up and evolves in the glass. You’ll find much more fruit and honey mixed in with the spice and pepper of the rye. Nose over the glass once it is empty and you’ll really find the honey.

We hand bottled 3,200 bottles on January 23, 2012 along with the help of several volunteer millers from Fulton and others from the Fulton community. It released to the public on February 3, 2012.

Those assisting in labeling and bottling include: Ryan, Garrett, Sean, Heather, Pat & Sharon, Mark D., Kat, Scot & Karen, Kent, Mark S., Heidi, Judy, Connie, Rhea, Nancy, Ed, Ron, Steve & Celeste, Jeff & Amy, Ron, Dan, Rick, John Y., John N., Bob S., Braeden, Tom, John & Shirley, Harlan, Tom S., Harold & Rena, Mike & Amy and Deb.

This delicious cordial is a collaboration of MRDC and Iowa Coffee Company in Runnells. Iowa.
Tom Sibbernsen, the owner of Iowa Coffee Company, is a farmer who roasts coffee beans and sells them at the Des Moines farmers market and other places in Central Iowa.

We start with Iowa Coffee Company’s hand roasted organic Peruvian coffee. We soak the coffee in our River Pilot Vodka and then redistill it for a smooth and rich coffee spirit base. We then infuse this coffee base with more coffee, vanilla beans and cinnamon. Lastly we sweeten it up with a touch of sugar for a beautiful liqueur for the fall and winter seasons.

We hand bottled 4,000 bottles. We found out quickly that dealing with sugar makes a big mess in the bottling line. Everything was sticky, but luckily it was so delicious that no one minded! It released to the public on November 4, 2011.

The sticky but dedicated bottling crew: John, Shirley, Tom, Scot, Karen, Theresa, Courtney, Bob, Deb, Harold, Rena, Pat, Sharon, Harlan, John, Sarah, Greg, Mark, Sean, Ryan and Garrett.

Our first seasonal spirit resulted in a beautiful expression thanks to help from our friends at Wide River Winery in Clinton, Iowa. The winery is just 28 miles north of our distillery, just off of US Highway 67.

We distilled this 100% wheat spirit using organic wheat from Tracy Doonan in Reynolds, Illinois. The spirit was then aged in oak barrels. During the last month of aging, this spirit was transferred to oak used to age wine at Wide River Winery. This oak was used to age wine made from a local grape called Corot Noir. This grape was grown by Gene Meyer in Pittsfield, Illinois. That wine is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon for Wide River’s Felony Red wine.

This left us with a light summertime sipper with a wonderful hint of red wine. We bottled 3,662 hand numbered 375 ml bottles of this spirit. It released to the public on August 5, 2011.

It took a lot of bottling help! But we got it done thanks to: John, Shirley, Randy, Phyllis, Rena, Howard, Bob, Courtney, Deb, Andy, Rachel, Mano, Bob, Linda, Scot, Karen, Erin, Mark, Chris, Chris, Theresa, Elizabeth, Tom and Duane.

Mississippi River Distilling Company

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