In a blind judging competition supervised by the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) in St. Louis, Missouri, Casey Jones Distillery’s Single Barrel Original 4 Grain Wheated Kentucky Straight Bourbon was judged Kentucky’s best craft whiskey. The competition, sponsored in part by the Kentucky Corn Growers Association, drew entries from more than half the U.S. states. Only those entries containing corn in their mash bill were eligible to enter, and only entries from sponsored states were eligible for Best-of-State. All entries were eligible to compete for whiskey category medals.
The Kentucky Corn Growers Association also sponsored the competition’s national awards which included Top Farmer-Distiller, a new category this year, and Best-of-Show. Tobacco Barn Distillery in Hollywood, Maryland won Top Farmer-Distiller for its Single Barrel Bourbon. Tobacco Barn is owned by Scott Sanders, Sean Coogan and Dan Dawson, the latter of whom operates the farm – family-owned for more than 100 years – where all of the corn for their winning bourbon is grown.
The Kentucky Corn Growers Association undertook this sponsorship to help bring awareness to Kentucky’s craft spirits industry and the role that corn farmers have in helping craft distillers produce great products — representing more than thousands of family farms. It is a privilege to be a small part of an industry growing right here in our state and community.
Several farmers have won medals and top trophies from previous Heartland Whiskey Competitions. The 2023 Best-of-Show was awarded to Casey Jones Distillery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky for its Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Which also earned the top score in the Four Grain Whiskey category and won Best of State. Bourbon whiskey earning gold medals included Lawrenceburg Bourbon Company One Cask and Casey Jones Total Eclipse.
“The number of entries exceeded our expectations by quite a bit and the judges set a very high bar so winners earned their awards,” stated Scott Kirkpatrick, Director of The Heartland Whiskey Competition. “Each state has craft distillers that produce high-quality whiskey, so earning best-of-state is a significant achievement.”
Judges were chosen by ACSA for their expertise in craft whiskey and the blind competition was supervised by Chris Montana, owner of Du Nord Social Spirits in Minnesota. The day-long competition required that judges evaluate each spirit within its category (Bourbon, Rye, etc.). Best-of-State trophies were awarded to those products that earned the highest scores in their respective states, regardless of category.
The competition was underwritten by participating state corn marketing associations. “Our objective is to communicate the diversity of products in which corn is found, and the fact that our members deeply appreciate our customers and their loyalty to our product,” stated Laura Knoth, Executive Director of the Kentucky Corn Growers Association. “We are pleased that Kentucky performed well at the competition and we encourage all our neighbors to sample our state’s craft spirits products responsibly.”
A full list of winners and sponsoring corn states can be found on the ACSA website.
“Heartland Whiskey Competition thanks the Kentucky Corn Growers Association and the other state corn groups for supporting craft distillers,” Kirkpatrick added. “Craft spirit products are made from grain, largely from the states in which they distill, and many craft distillers are owned by farmers, including multiple winners from this year’s competition. The continued interest and support from Kentucky Corn Growers Association helps distillers to better market their products.”
The Kentucky Corn Growers Association is a grassroots organization that works to ensure a pro-corn business and policy environment. The organization empowers corn farmers to elevate their voice in the governmental process. The farmer-led organization serves many markets such as poultry and livestock feed, ethanol, bourbon and distilled spirits, and trade. All to shape a supportive business environment for Kentucky corn farmers. More information about the Kentucky Corn Growers Association can be found on our website.