Illinois’ Top Craft Whiskey at the 2023 Heartland Whiskey Competition

Aug 29, 2023  |  Today's News |  ICMB

In a blind judging competition supervised by the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) in St. Louis, Missouri, Whiskey Acre’s was judged Illinois’ best craft whiskey. The competition, sponsored in part by the IL Corn Marketing Board, drew entries from more than half the U.S. states. Only those entries containing corn in their mash bill were eligible to enter, and only entries from sponsored states were eligible for Best-of-State. All entries were eligible to compete for whiskey category medals.


IL Corn also sponsored the competition’s national awards which included Top Farmer-Distiller, a new category this year, and Best-of-Show. Tobacco Barn Distillery in Hollywood, Maryland won Top Farmer-Distiller for its Single Barrel Bourbon. Tobacco Barn is owned by Scott Sanders, Sean Coogan and Dan Dawson, the latter of whom operates the farm – family-owned for more than 100 years -- where all of the corn for their winning Bourbon is grown.

Several farmers have won medals and top trophies from previous Heartland Whiskey Competitions. The 2023 Best-of-Show was awarded to Casey Jones Distillery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky for its Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon.


“The number of entries exceeded our expectations by quite a bit and the judges set a very high bar so winners earned their awards,” stated Scott Kirkpatrick, Director of The Heartland Whiskey Competition. “Each state has craft distillers that produce high-quality whiskey, so earning best-of-state is a significant achievement.”


Judges were chosen by ACSA for their expertise in craft whiskey and the blind competition was supervised by Chris Montana, owner of Du Nord Social Spirits in Minnesota. The day-long competition required that judges evaluate each spirit within its category (Bourbon, Rye, etc.). Best-of-State trophies were awarded to those products that earned the highest scores in their respective states, regardless of category.


The competition was underwritten by participating state corn marketing associations. “Our objective is to communicate the diversity of products in which corn is found, and the fact that our members deeply appreciate our customers and their loyalty to our product,” stated Jon Rosenstiel, chair of the IL Corn Marketing Board. “We are pleased that Illinois performed well at the competition and we encourage all our neighbors to sample our state’s craft spirits products responsibly.”


Other Illinois category winners include Best Flavored Whiskey - Fayette County Fire Red Hot Cinnamon Whiskey, Best Light Whiskey - Star Union Spirits American Corn Series Cabernet Sauvignon and Best Rye Whiskey - Whiskey Acres Straight Rye Whiskey. A full list of winners and sponsoring corn states can be found at the ACSA website.


“Heartland Whiskey Competition thanks the IL Corn Marketing Board and the other state corn groups for supporting craft distillers,” Kirkpatrick added. “Craft spirit products are made from grain, largely from the states in which they distill, and many craft distillers are owned by farmers, including multiple winners from this year’s competition.  The continued interest and support from IL Corn helps distillers to better market their products.”