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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Witness Bourbon Whiskey

Years ago, I put a Pioneer Seed hat on my Christmas List. I ended up receiving a Pioneer Seed jacket instead, that at the time, was compliments of my brother-in-law purchasing nearly $20,000 worth of Pioneer seed corn . Today, we take a look at Witness Bourbon Whiskey which bears a Pioneer seed corn label as thank-you gift from a seed corn salesperson to an American farmer.

Illinois Was A Leading Bourbon Producer ... Once The label of this bourbon proudly shares the Pioneer seed name, but the bourbon is from Witness Distillery in Vandalia, Illinois. Across the street sits the Vandalia State House, which served as the one-time state capital and were Abraham Lincoln first served in an elected office. Located in southern Illinois, the region was once home to both legal and not-so-legal distilling. During the 1800s, the area was home to two distilleries. Prior to Prohibition, Illinois produced more than 50% of U.S. whiskey, compliments of the mammoth-sized Hiram Walker Distillery in Peoria, Illinois. Today, operations are located in the 1870-era building that was at times a hotel, a dry-goods store, and a furniture store. Locally sourced corn and wheat are used in the production along with water trucked in from a natural spring 25 miles distant. Next door to the distillery, you'll find the Blind Society - a bar and restaurant.

The Tasting There's no indication of the mash bill on the label. There is a statement indicating the bourbon has been aged a minimum of 24 months in new, charred 10-gallon white oak barrels. The finished product was bottled at 94 proof. Color: Caramel. This is surprisingly dark for its youthfulness and reminds me of some of the Whiskey Acre products. There are some thin legs displayed in the Glencairn glass.

Nose: Corn-forward, with notes of sweet corn and corn pudding. There's also bready characteristics, as well, like a freshly baked loaf of bread. Overall, youthful, sweet and inviting. Palate: Buttery sweet corn, vanilla, lightly toasted oak and spice. Uncomplicated, but definitely helped by the proof. The nose is better than the palate, and I feel if this were a lower proof, this might completely be lost on the palate. Finish: Towards the short end, but with some pleasant vanilla, oak, and spice.

Overall: Overall, this isn't a bad bourbon. I've definitely had worse. The nose was solid and it offered a nice southern Illinois hug, but needed a bit more flavor on the palate. This is certainly a great spot to start and I'd love to try this again with a couple more years of aging. With Illinois growing so much corn, perhaps some of our local corn is finding its way into your favorite bourbon.

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