“It’s a bit unsettling to see a roomful of whiskey experts reduced to a confused silence. But that’s just what happened at a spirits industry event in 2016, when High Wire Distilling Co. served up some of the first of its New Southern Revival Brand Straight Bourbon Whiskey.” This is how Garden & Gun introduced its readers to the winner of this year’s Made in the South Awards, a competition of the South’s best makers judged by a panel of experts.
High Wire Distilling Company’s distillery is less than 10 minutes from the magazine’s Charleston offices, situated adjacent to a gravel parking lot on upper King Street. It is, according to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Punch Magazine and now Garden & Gun, on the forfront of the spirits industry’s next movement — locality and different ingredients.
Married duo Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall, High Wire’s owners, created their award-winning whiskey using all the same technology and methods the rest of the industry uses, they just changed the main ingredient. Instead of the standard corn used to make most whiskeys, Blackwell and Marshall, with the help of an all-star team of food scientists, renowned chefs and food historians, reached for something called Jimmy Red corn.
This is the source of its award-winning whiskey’s power. The corn, which was reduced at one point to two stalks in existence, was resuscitated by the combined efforts of Chef Sean Brock, two brothers hell bent on growing heirloom crops and Anson Mills founder and food conservationist Glenn Roberts. Its history is steeped in moonshining, it’s bright red (hence the name) and comes with a completely different flavor profile than what’s typical for whiskey — High Wire Distilling describes it as “nutty, sweet, and mineralic with an extremely high oil content.”
According to Garden & Gun, availability was limited to just two barrels produced in 2016, with another 26 rolling out this winter. High Wire is prepping another 200 or so for availability in 2020. The low availability is largely a product of cost, as the Jimmy Red corn requires almost ten times the cash to produce than standard yellow corn.
Good luck getting your hands on some.