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Boot Hill Distillery's whiskey named best in state at competition

Boot Hill Distillery

After being in business for less than a year, the Boot Hill Distillery is at it again - winning awards - this time for its whiskey.

Just a few months after the Dodge City, Kansas startup received a bronze medal for its vodka, it received another couple of awards for its Red Eye Whiskey.  

In a phone interview with High Plains Public Radio Friday, Mark Vierthaler, director of marketing and distiller at Boot Hill Distillery, said the company’s Red Eye Whiskey was named the Best in Kansas and received a bronze medal during the 2017 Heartland Whiskey Competition, which featured more than 30 craft distilleries and over 75 whiskeys from 10 heartland states, that was held in Chicago, Ill. last month,.

Vierthaler said because about 50 percent of whiskey’s flavor comes from the aging process, getting the recognition was especially sweet.

“Considering our Red Eye is a month old, we’re pretty pleased that we ranked up with bourbons that are several years old,” he said.

According to a press release from the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA), the competition, which was sponsored by 10 state corn marketing associations, took place on May 18 at CH Distillery in Chicago. The ACSA facilitated the judging process during the competition, which was open to U.S. craft whiskeys made with some corn in the mash bill (the mix of grains used to make whiskey).

"Several of the distilleries in the Midwest are also working farms so we understand how passionate these distillers are in creating a great product," stated Jim Raben, Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. "On behalf of all the participating corn associations I want to express our great respect for these innovative small business owners and our continued support and cooperation for this growing industry. The great variety of products that rely on corn as a key ingredient is lengthy and we are proud to be a reliable, high-quality supplier."

Vierthaler said Boot Hill Distillery’s Red Eye Whiskey’s mash bill is made up of 51 percent corn and 49 percent wheat and is aged for a minimum of a month before its barrel is harvested.

“The reason we do that is essentially, you can get a fuller flavor profile on smaller barrels because you have a lot more surface area of the spirit coming into contact with the barrel,” he explained.

The distillery - owned by three western Kansas farmers who grow 100 percent of the grain used in crafting its spirits - also makes whiskey out of the same mash bill that Vierthaler said is aged in 53 gallon barrels for a minimum of two years.

“So the first one probably won’t be released until around Jan. 2019,” he said.

Boot Hill Distillery received a bronze medal for its vodka at the ACSA’s Fourth Annual Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show held in Nashville, Tennessee in February, after going up against distillers who have been at it far longer than Boot Hill Distillery, which has only been open since July of last year.

“We put a lot of passion into what we’re doing and to be able to have some other people say, ‘This is good,’ that’s a point of pride,” he said, adding that the company’s real aim is to make a quality product that people want to drink.