Minnesota Bourbon: J. Carver turns local corn to liquid gold


TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2016 AT 9:54 A.M.


J. Carver is releasing one of the first Minnesota bourbons.

J. Carver is releasing one of the first Minnesota bourbons.

Bourbon, the pride of Kentucky, has made a resurgence in the spirits market of late. While there are classic offerings available everywhere, Minnesota is still behind the curve, mainly because the distilling process includes a lengthy barrel-aging period.

Now J. Carver of Waconia is releasing a bourbon to the market, made entirely with Minnesota-grown ingredients. After 14-plus months inside oak barrels (also made in Minnesota), Batch No. 1 of J. Carver bourbon whiskey is ready.

It's made with a blend of 75 percent Plato-grown corn and 25 percent Clear Lake-grown rye. The color is a golden light caramel; the flavor has a vanilla and dry oak aroma with an herbal rye tinge and a hint of black pepper. J. Carver notes that it was crafted for straight consumption, but it also holds its own in traditional bourbon cocktails like the mighty Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or Sazerac.

The local corn comes through plentifully in the drink, with an earthy and somewhat musky flavor that’s complemented by a rye spiciness and a touch of cinnamon. As it fades, vanilla and toffee tones take over. But that Minnesota corn taste lingers along with a boozy warmth that is incredibly smooth. The bourbon drinks easily, more warming than burning.

J. Carver promises that the bourbon is just one of many new spirits to come. A small batch of wheat bourbon is aging, as is a small batch of straight bourbon (aged at least two years). While they already make a limited apple brandy, a grape-based brandy will also debut in late 2016.

Unlike beer, with its relatively short turnaround time from mash tun to glass, spirits often take months or even years to perfect and age before hitting the market. So as our local distilleries age, new spirits will continue to be introduced. At J. Carver, many of new offerings will be small, or limited, productions as they master their recipes. 

J. Carver bourbon whiskey is available in their cocktail room on Fridays and Saturdays, and where other J. Carver spirits are sold, including the News Room on Nicollet Mall, Sweeney’s Saloon in St. Paul, Zipp’s Liquor, and the Wine Thief.