WIDOW JANE BOURBON WHISKEY
Over the last decade the words “craft” and “artisanal” have been used to describe everything from chocolate to shoe laces to everything in between.
So, what is “craft”? Well, for Daniel Preston, founder of the Widow Jane Distillery, it is simple: Craft means using the best possible ingredients, employing innovative methods and cutting no corners all in the aim of crafting a superior product. In Daniel’s case, the superior product are his Widow Jane whiskeys and bourbons that have won countless awards and garnered a fanatical following among the high end spirit cognoscenti.
As a young man taking sips of his grandfather’s Scotch as they played endless games of chess, Daniel Preston gained an appreciation for whiskey. As a former aerospace engineer trained in chemical engineering, Mr. Preston appreciated the science behind his favorite spirit.
“Fermentation and distillation are basic chemical engineering, the transformation of molecules and compounds through science into something completely different,” he says, “The ‘art’ of making spirits is in the choosing of ingredients and the development of a palate.”
Widow Jane Mine
It follows that the most basic ingredient is water – and, as all the great whiskey distillers throughout the world — from Kentucky to Scotland — have long known: is that is takes sweet water from tough rock to make great whiskey.
This is why all Widow Jane products are distilled or proofed with water from the historic limestone caves of the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale, New York – a water with such unique chemical properties as to be equal to that used by the most revered whiskey makers.
While Mr. Preston’s first love was Scotch, his exposure to high-end bourbon changed all of that. Where single malt scotches are distilled only from barley, American bourbons are expressions of the vast range of New World ingredients from rye to corn and offer a much wider spectrum of flavors and aromas.
For Widow Jane whiskeys and bourbons, Mr. Preston wanted to expand upon the palate of even the most vaunted bourbons from Kentucky and he also wanted a product that was 100% GMO free. He began researching corn and became fascinated not only with the quantity of corn varietals, but the devotion and stories of the “seed sharers,” families and exchange banks that had kept those varietals from disappearing forever.
Along the way, people kept telling him he was wasting his time; that the type of corn used in distilling wouldn't make a difference; that it was just too expensive to produce. But his resilience paid off when he finally tasted his first batch of Widow Jane Heirloom Bourbon Whiskey – the only whiskey produced in the US completely GMO free, from the enzymes used in the fermentation to the grains used in the mash. Within each kernel of that heirloom corn, within the waters of the Widow Jane Mine there was a history, a true sense of terroir, a story to tell – and that story revealed itself in the unique richness and flavors of Widow Jane Heirloom Bourbon Whiskey.
WIDOW JANE DISTILLERY
In 2012, desiring some feedback for his experiments, Daniel submitted his Heirloom Whiskey to a few Spirit Festivals. He walked away with medals from the International Spirits Competition and the American Distilling Institute and left with some added confidence, but he also departed with something much more valuable. Unbeknownst to Daniel, one of the judges was Dave Pickerell, the former Master Distiller for Maker's Mark. Dave was instantly impressed by the complexity of Daniel's offerings and reached out for more information about this newcomer whiskey.
This led to Dave being astounded by what he saw when he first walked through Widow Janes’ distillery doors. His direct quote while gazing in wonder at the set up was "Who the -bleep- are you guys?!?"
Dave took on a mentorship role at Widow Jane, working with the distilling team, teaching them what he'd learned in his years of experience. But he also brought with him an invitation for Daniel to fly to Kentucky and meet one of the “royal” families of the Bourbon Industry.
Recognizing a kindred spirit, Daniel was accepted within the fold of this family, and with the knowledge that Mr. Preston’s award winning Heirloom Whiskey needed more time to age, this group of industry insiders invited Mr. Preston to
partake in one of the long-held traditions of the industry: the ability to secure a number of barrels of the finest bourbon available. With this bourbon, proofed and filtered with the unique Widow Jane water, Mr. Preston launched his first product available to the public: Widow Jane Bourbon Whiskey. The 7 year old bourbon immediately became a cult alternative to the most sought-after brands and won Double Gold in the 2013 San Francisco Spirit awards, effectively making it one of the finest bourbons available for sale.
Widow Jane Bourbon is now for sale in several different states and the Heirloom Bourbons distilled by Widow Jane have now aged to perfection and are on the market in New York and Kentucky, with more states coming soon! Mr. Preston continues to strive for perfection and innovation in his craft and has expanded his holdings to include 250 acres of heirloom corn and another 50 acres of Rye growing in the Hudson Valley.
Over the next year, Widow Jane has plans to grow ten times more crops and build a new distillery alongside the Widow Jane Mine. Once completed, this distillery could be the world's first Carbon Neutral, possibly even Carbon Negative Distillery. It will allow Widow Jane to increase production to 43 times its current rate, while also bringing an amazing new tourist attraction to the Hudson Valley.