Truly Local Barley
Hillrock differs from many other distilleries in that it grows its own grain. Pictured here: Australian sheepdog Storm in the barley fields.
Amber Waves of...Rye
The rye fields sit on one side of the distillery, while the barley's on the other.
The Malt House
Once the barley's picked and cleaned, it sits in Hillrock well water for two days. This room is 58 degrees, the perfect temperature for cultivating germination. Distiller Tim Welly, on right, rakes the barley every six hours so it doesn't clump. After 2 to 3 days, the grain has an ideal 45% moisture content and it's time for the next step...
The kiln dries and smokes the grain for 2 to 3 days until it's perfectly crunchy. The final moisture level of the malted barley is 4% or lower.
Master Distiller Dave Pickerell designed custom tubs and stills from Kentucky's Vendome for maximum flexibility and control.
The Mash Bin
Because they make a single malt and a bourbon, Dave designed the mash bin with a dual purpose cooker. For the traditional single malt, they leave in the floor grate for the two washes before fermentation. Then, they shovel the grain out and donate it to a horse farm.
For the bourbon, since the corn would get wedged in the floor and prevent draining, the floor is removed. After the mash, the liquid goes on to fermentation.
There are five fermentation tanks that are also very customizable. A valve on the back of the tanks allows for precise temperature control. The ideal temperature for rye, for example, is 90 degrees.
Fermentation goes on for 3 to 5 days. On the left, we have a batch after 1 to 2 days, while on the right, we have a batch after 5 days—the cap has sunk and we begin to get a little malolactic fermentation.
The Pot Still
The 250-gallon pot still comes next—the spirit's in here for about six hours. Valves on the back allow for fine-tuned control.
Here's where the head, the heart (middle triangle), and the tails separate. The heart is the part we want to drink, and it comes off the still after the head and before the tails.
The Product Line
Hillrock's first two products for sale will be the single malt and the Solera aged bourbon. They have two more bottlings in the works: a 100% rye whiskey and a high percent rye bourbon.
Baker's house looks down on the distillery complex. In the 1800s, it was home to Captain Israel Harris, a revolutionary war captain and grain merchant.
From left: Distiller Tim Welly, Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, and owner Jeff Baker. Second row: Shadow and Storm, Australian sheepdogs and Hillrock resident mascots – they're even part of the logo.