While exploring the epicurean oasis known as John’s Grocery in Iowa City, I found several bottles of Two Jay’s Iowa Corn Whiskey by Broadbent Distillery out of Norwalk, Iowa. This was a surprise to me as I’d not heard that there was another distillery out there. They apparently started shipping product in March or April of 2011. Broadbent Distillery is a micro distillery and bills itself as the smallest “legal” micro distillery in Iowa. The website claims that they made their own homemade still using Iowa grown grains. There are only two products at this time, a grappa and an Iowa Corn Whiskey. The batches are distilled two times. The whiskey is 80 proof.
So, what does it taste like? I was surprised. I matched the Iowa Corn Whiskey against a well-known standard in the whiskey industry, white label Jim Beam Bourbon, aged four years in the traditional Kentucky manner. The base flavor and aroma of the Iowa Corn Whiskey can also be found in the Jim Beam. What is lacking is that bourbon buttery feel on the tongue, the aroma of the oak and the additional flavor imparted by the aging process. Something the Iowa Corn Whiskey had that was lacking in the Jim Beam was a slightly metallic tang, a slight harshness that disturbed an otherwise flavorful white whiskey. On the whole, I was surprised that it tasted as well as it did without any aging. The Two Jay’s Iowa Corn Whiskey is not as smooth as the Jim Beam by a large margin, and it likely has some congeners lacking in the Jim Beam or other liquors that are triple distilled or made with more modern equipment, but aside from that tang, it had much more flavor than any vodka.
As my Omaha contributor Our Man in Omaha wrote earlier in this blog, there is a recent strong interest in “white dog” or “white whiskey” among some craft bars, seeking to get away from the typical bourbon taste of some of the familiar mixed drinks. I can see how this Iowa Corn Whiskey might lend itself some interesting new takes on old standards. It has more flavor than your typical vodka but lacks some of the tastes associated with aging for at least four years in a charred oak barrel. You may not consider this to be a good thing, but it is different.
I congratulate Mr. Broadbent in pushing forward with this distillery effort. He has produced a fine product that showcases the best of what a small batch “white lightning” still can make using 100% Iowa corn. I’d love to see what else they can produce with other grains. He should also contact some of the craft bars around the country to see if they might be interested in giving this a try.
The Des Moines Business Record has a nice article on the distillery here: “Looking for something smooth and homey.“