With so many types of whiskey available, we believe it is important to support local whiskey distilleries and spirit makers if the opportunity arises. Being from the Midwest and representing the Midwest, it is great to know that we grow some of the best grain to produce some of the finest whiskeys on offer today.

Recently, we partnered with a new distribution company and were able to bring on some new spirits and begin supporting local whiskeys at Howells & Hood in a new section of the menu called “Local Grain”. Showcasing local talent at such an exciting time in the beverage industry is something we are very proud of, and so we had GM Andrew Macker and Assistant GM Max Cavanaugh give us the run down on the different flavors and complexities of these great local whiskeys.

Copper Fiddle Bourbon (92 Proof)
Distilling in Lake Zurich, Illinois out of a copper pot bought out of Arkansas and has be distilling for a very long time. That can often skew the flavor in a southern, traditional way. This bourbon is a three grain mash, still keeping with at least 51% corn obviously. It is aged in smaller charred oak barrels, and therefore more of the liquid gets to touch the surface area of the barrels than when using a larger barrel. Copper Fiddle sources grain that is 100% non-GMO, and as locally produced as possible.

Tasting notes: Maple Syrup on the nose. A ton of caramel flavor. It leans towards the sweet side of bourbons. If you are looking for something that isn’t too oak-ey, this is your guy.

Grand River Baby Whiskey (80 Proof)
Based in Carbondale, and all their grain comes from Southern Illinois too. Called a ‘baby’ because it is only aged for six or so months. This mash is mostly corn, with a little barley in there for balance. On the sweeter side again; often that comes with the midwest corn in the mash. The proof of each batch varies a little, but often on the lower end of many whiskey ABVs, so it is noticeably different to those whiskeys that come out full barrel-aged strength.

Tasting notes: Toasty, with a bigger bite. Would be great in an Old Fashioned.

Grand River Baby Bourbon (86 Proof)
Again, bourbon so it has to be at least 51% corn – in fact, they used 100% corn mash for this spirit. And again, a ‘baby’ so aged for only around six months in new, charred white oak barrels.

Tasting notes: On the nose it is much more delicate. Got that real slick coating mouthfeel. No bite. Like a buttery chardonnay.

Frankfort Spirits Emil Stimple (106 Proof)
Kind of the horse of this group. A Barrel-strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey, so it has to be aged at least four years and come out at barrel-strength to be called so. This one has actually seen 8 years of aging in Frankfort, Illinois. It is a strong and bold whiskey, and has seen no coloring or watering. This will have some bite.

Tasting notes: Hot and worth it! Spiced, like pepper, cardamon, and eastern spices. You may want one or two drops of water to even that out. A Sazerac would be great with this.

Few Bourbon (93 Proof)
From Evanston in Illinois, the home of the temperance movement, Few’s master distiller has to overturned old prohibition laws to become the first distiller of grain spirits within the city limits. This bourbon is a three grain mash of at least 51% corn, with some northern rye, and some malt. Will have a little more pepper, and a lot of the wood flavor. They use really great barrels, and that is a large part of their successful flavor profile to many whiskey fans.

Tasting notes: More herbal, very earthy. Heat, then wood. Incredibly smooth for a younger age bourbon.

Few Rye (93 Proof)
A multiple award-winning spirit. Beautiful balance of the rye with that Midwest corn again. One of the best ryes we’ve ever had. Coming in a little hot at 46.5% ABV, but it’s worth it. Few seems to have a house character. Once you smell this, it smells like their distillery and you know it is from Few. Aged in air-dried oak barrels.

Tasting notes: Immediately get that spice and heat. Incredibly well balanced. Lingers beautifully.

So there we have a great selection of the high level of whiskey that is on offer from Illinois distilleries. Local whiskey has never had a healthier scene, and we hope you can try some of these and find a new local favorite. Or, like Andy, find six new favorites.

Supporting Local Whiskeys in Illinois


by Bottleneck Management.