If you type “Bourbon” into the Google search bar, with no additional context, I guarantee brands like Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve will flood your search engine. This is, of course, obvious to many, as you can’t say “Bourbon” without quickly
mentioning “Kentucky” and it’s Bourbon Trail. Roughly 95% of bourbon is crafted in the Bluegrass State, so of course they are Bourbon Country, that is well-known.
What is not known is the location of Whiskey Country. I’m not talking bourbon whisky either. I’m talking a pure, no corn in sight, whiskey. The reputation that Kentucky bourbon has created is so strong, that the term “bourbon” is often used as a general description of the darker spirit. But in reality, a bourbon is a type of whiskey, but a whiskey is not necessarily a bourbon. You remember learning about squares and rectangles, right? Same concept. There are strict rules in place to ensure the quality of a bourbon, a major piece being that it must have at least 51% corn.
Corn is a major factor as to why Kentucky is the main player in the bourbon game. Their water, soil and weather create an ideal environment for bourbon distilling. The state boasts some of the richest, more fertile soil in the country, ideal for growing, yes you guessed it, corn.
Where am I going with this you ask? Well, if Kentucky has been corn country since the late 1700s due to Mother Nature’s gift, which has led to the dominance in Bourbon Distilling due to the same fact, couldn’t the same argument be made for the rice country and whiskey?
The great development of the state’s rice industry came as the result of the opening up of the broad, flat prairie region in southwestern part of the state where rice thrives in the water-logged,
silt-rich soil. In the 1800s, John Meleck, who planted our first rice crop, referred to this as “Providence”. He supplied the hard work and providence provided the water. Four generations later, we are still providing the hard work, and providence is providing the water to not only harvest but to distill a handcrafted spirit. A pure 100% rice whiskey, handcrafted in Cajun country. So, where is Whiskey Country you ask…it’s in Louisiana.
Nine years ago Mike Fruge, founder of J.T. Meleck Distillers, sought out to find a way to add value to his rice crop. In the process, he was reunited with his family history, and stumbled upon an opportunity in the spirits market. Finally, after many trial by fire years, J.T. Meleck Distillers has released it’s rice whiskey into the market. Amber in color and clean on the nose, it is the underdog no one expects. It can hold it’s own to the big players up there in Kentucky.
I challenge you to give your own opinion if you don’t believe me. It comes down to the water and the grain. Kentucky is corn country and Louisiana is rice country. Many have traveled the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so could this mean the start of the Louisiana Whiskey Trail begins on a farm in Branch, LA?