Small-batch craft distilleries and drinks with strong flavors are all the rage these days. Traditional American whiskies, especially rye, are enjoying a new golden age and Dusty Barn Distillery, located just a few miles west of Evansville, is at the forefront of these popular trends.
Dusty Barn creates small-batch craft whiskies and spirits from grains they grow themselves in Mount Vernon, Indiana. They specialize in rye and corn whiskies, and produce the occasional specialty bottle such as a single barrel rye or liqueur.
“That makes us unique,” says Dr. Duane “Doc” Kuhlenschmidt, the founder and face of Dusty Barn. Kuhlenschmidt is a noted Evansville anesthesiologist and Posey County farmer who started work on the distillery in 2008. Dusty Barn opened its doors in late 2016 with one still, three whiskies, a gift shop, and a tasting room.
“Our whiskies are an incorporation of characteristics that I enjoy,” adds Jesse Kuhlenschmidt, Doc’s son and Dusty Barn’s master distiller. “When you make very small batches to your own tastes like we do, they are bound to turn out different from the mass produced whiskies.”
Doc’s Rye Whiskey is their best seller by far, they say.
“I think our rye is outstanding,” says Jesse. “It’s unique because of the grain mix. At roughly 80 percent rye, it still has the rye bite, but the corn gives it some sweetness. It’s good and peppery, not too dry, with a buttery feel. It’s a very good rye for sipping, or for traditional cocktails, especially Manhattans.”
Typically, the rye is blended from multiple barrels to get just the right taste, but Dusty Barn occasionally offers a single barrel rye.
“Sometimes a barrel is so good we don’t want to blend it with anything else,” says Jesse.
Dusty Barn also is one of the new generations of craft distillers making corn whiskey.
One version is white whiskey, which skips the aging-in-barrels step and goes straight to the bottle. The Kuhlenschmidts offer Doc’s Hoosier Moon — a white, 100 percent corn whiskey. Dusty Barn’s version is sweet and sippable, but like other white spirits, may be better in cocktails. Doc recommends it for Bloody Mary’s.
Doc’s Casked Corn is 100 percent corn whiskey that has been aged for a year in a charred barrel, making it smoother and more flavorful. Casked is a clean, straight-forward whiskey that is good for sipping or for use in any traditional, whiskey-based cocktail.
Looking forward, the Kuhlenschmidts say the future is bright. Craft bourbon is on the horizon. They expect to produce a Nocino for Christmas season, which is a traditional Northern Italian liqueur made from walnuts. Other specialty bottles also are in the works.
Other additions planned include an outdoor patio and served cocktails.
Dusty Barn Distillery is open for distillery tours and tastings on weekends. Bottles are available for sale in the gift shop, which also features local products. Takeout is available on Sundays.
For more information about Dusty Barn, call 812-454-0135 or visit dustybarndistillery.com.