Last year, a remarkably enthusiastic review of my book, Midwest Maize,
brought me into contact with Ralph Haynes. Haynes and his two partners operate Pinckney Bend Distillery, a boutique, small-batch distillery that specializes in whiskey made from heirloom corn, with the goal of reproducing whiskeys like those produced in the 1800s. It was corn history that made the connection for us.
The correspondence led to an invitation to visit, if I were ever in the area. A couple of conventions in the last few weeks were going to bring me into reasonable proximity, so I arranged to visit for a couple of days.
The distillery is in a historic spot along the Lewis and Clark Trail, just a few yards from the banks of the Missouri River, in a town so small that no one I met elsewhere in Missouri had heard of it (it’s just west of Washington, Mo, if you need to find it on a map).
Haynes spent a fair bit of time sharing the history of the area and the distillery, but he was particularly excited about sharing the various whiskeys, most of which are identified by the corn used to make them. He poured whiskeys made from Wapsie Valley corn (my favorite), Hickory Cane corn, and Pipestone corn. All very obviously whiskey, but still each corn variety produced a different flavor profile. I also enjoyed the rested whiskey (he can’t call it bourbon), and, stepping momentarily away from whiskey, really loved the gin they produce. During a tour of their facility, I got to see a few other varieties of corn that are destined for future batches, including Missouri Blue and Bloody Butcher (bright red). Really beautiful stuff. Haynes said that sometimes, after he grinds the corn, he’ll take a bit home and make polenta or cornbread—to see how the flavor profile differs there, as well.
If you’re interested in the history of the location, you can read it here: http://pinckneybend.com/the-pinckney-bend-story/
If you want to try their whiskeys, here are their distributors. http://pinckneybend.com/where-to-buy/
Of course, if you ever get down to Missouri and want to visit, that’s the best option—at least from the standpoint of sampling the whiskeys (and gin) side by side.
And if you need a place to stay, I found the Haynes's guest house—Aunt’s Mays—to be a great option: http://www.auntmays.com/
Haynes’s wife manages the local library district, so she set up a speaking engagement for me while I was there, so I could talk about corn history and then Haynes could pour a little “processed” corn for those who attended. Nifty arrangement. Too bad I can’t have him there every time I talk about corn.
Oh – and if you do get to that area, and you need something to eat, my top recommendation would be the Farm to You Market in Washington, a little market specializing in locally raised or produced foods that has a small café where you can get outstanding food, including hog-jowl bacon made by the store’s owner, from his heritage pigs. So no culinary wasteland here.
1101 Miller St
New Haven, MO 63068