French Lick, Indiana is the Gatlinburg, Tennessee of the Midwest. This beautiful town seemed to have it all, beautiful country side, romantic getaways at historic hotels such as the West Badin Hotel, Spas, golf courses, casinos and a winery. A rich tradition as a place to come and relax, so what was missing?
Now if you knew that French Lick was originally a French trading post built near a spring and salt lick, then there was clearly whiskey traded at this location very early on. So with that the owners of French Lick Winery, John and Kim Doty decided to reach back in time and bring back the spirits of the past. With that they founded Spirts of French Lick in 2016 with their two sons Aaron and Nick.
Since then they have been paying homage to the regions history with pre-prohibition style products Lee W. Sinclair 4-Grain Bourbon, The Wheater and Old Clifty Hoosier Apple Brandy with only one rule. Respect the Grain. To ensure success in the Distillery they would need someone with experience and dedication to his craft. They found just that in Alan Bishop who is a self-described lifelong student of the art of distillation and an avid researcher of distilling heritage. Alan brought his 19 years’ worth of experience to the table.
Their Distiller Alan Bishop who prefers to be called the Alchemist of Indiana, rather than the Master or Head distiller has defiantly brought his magical touch to this young distillery. Now if you don’t know exactly what an alchemist is let me tell you. An alchemist is someone who transforms things for the better or creates something through a seemingly magical process. Now I know for sure I definitely felt magical after sipping on The wheater for an evening.
With that the distillery is going into a rebranding of sorts. For that you definitely need a Marketing Director and who better to tackle that challenge than Jolee Kasprazak. They will be introducing a new bottle in bond and a new wheated bourbon that is all theirs as the current wheated expression is sourced 7 yr. old bourbon blended with their two yr. old stock.
What was different from most episodes that we record was this was the first remote episode that we recorded, so with that Jolee was kind enough to send us bottles of the Lee W. Sinclair 4 grain bourbon and their Old Clifty Hoosier Apple Brandy. What, wait a minute? This is a bourbon podcast, do we drink brandy? What is apple brandy? So many questions so here goes.
Brandy is usually made from fermented grapes (wine) which is distilled and to create a higher alcohol content. Brandy has been around since the 15 th Century and in the 16 th Century perfected by the French while trying to replace Port. That’s entirely another part of history. So what does Brandy have to do with Apples in Indiana?
In the 19th Century the Indian Country Side was littered with apple orchards. Some of those apple trees were even planted by John Chapman. Who is John Chapman you ask? Well he is Johnny Appleseed and yes he was a real man. Indiana was peppered with over 150 brandy distillers. While most of those apple trees are gone their history was brought back to life.
The Old Clifty distillery was one of those distilleries and it is the namesake for Spirits of French Lick’s Brandy. This distillery produced roughly 20,000 gallons of apple brandy yearly from 1818-1904. Today the distillery uses fresh pressed Michigan apples that are then fermented. This fermentation is then double pot distilled. This is aged in used wine barrels with new American Oak toasted heads for 2 years. What comes out is some pure goodness!
So with our first video remote episode with Alan and Jolee we sampled their standard bourbon, the wheater and the brandy. We can absolutely say that this craft distillery is doing what is right by honoring the people who came before them. Their expressions are delicious and worth putting on the shelf. Give them a visit if you’re taking a trip to French Lick.
Until then, sit back with a big glass of brandy or bourbon and listen as Alan and Jolee take The Bourbon Road to the French Lick of Indiana where they respect the grain.
Mike (Big Chief)