At a recent spirits competition, all the award-winning entries had one thing in common: corn. Corn-based spirits were judged at the 2017 Heartland Whiskey Competition with eight Illinois distilleries earning 12 medals in the multi-state competition sponsored in part by Illinois corn farmers, through the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

In the blind judging supervised by the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) in Chicago, Fox River Distilling’s Bennett Mill Straight Bourbon Whiskey won “Best in Show” out of all ten states, “Best in State” for Illinois, and a Gold Medal for “Best Straight Whiskey.”  The competition drew more than 75 whiskey entries from 10 states.

“Competition entries exceeded our expectations by quite a bit, so medalists persevered from a large pool,” stated Margie A.S. Lehrman, executive director of ACSA. “Today, each of these states has a group of craft spirits distillers that produce high-quality whiskey, so claiming best of state is a significant achievement.”

It was a strong showing for several Illinois craft distilleries that are located throughout the state. Whiskey Acres, which is located on a farm in DeKalb, won three silver medals and two bronze medals. Six other Illinois distilleries won one medal each including Fox River, which won a gold that earned it “State’s Best.” Other silver medal winners from Illinois were J.K. Williams Distillery in East Peoria, Copper Fiddle Distillery in Lake Zurich and CH Distillery in Chicago. The three bronze medal winners from Illinois were Oppidan Distillery in Wheeling, Quincy Street Distillery in Riverside and Stumpy’s Distillery in Columbia.

The competition was underwritten by several states where corn is an important crop to the farm families who take pride in growing it. “As a farmer first, we know Illinois farm families like ours grow the world’s best corn thanks to generations of farming expertise, rich Illinois soils, sunshine and ample natural sources of water,” says Jamie Walter, who, with his father Jim and business partner Nick Nagele, operate Whiskey Acres.

“ACSA thanks Illinois farmers for supporting our burgeoning industry and the small businesses that compose it,” Lehrman added. “Our member products are made from grain, largely from the states in which they manufacture, and oftentimes our producers have personal relationships with the local farmers planting the seeds. High quality ingredients, with a bit of ingenuity from the producers, result in stellar spirits.”

Learn more about the Illinois farm families that grow the corn behind award-winning whiskeys at

For more about Fox River Distilling, visit

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