The Ozark Highlands are one of only nine different highland regions located around the world and is a complex ecological paradise with limestone bluffs and extensive cave systems. This ecoregion spans the majority of southern Missouri and extends into Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. It makes up the largest portion of the region more widely known as the Ozark Mountains. While many mountains, like the Appalachian Mountains, are the weathered results of typical tectonic activity, the Ozark Highlands are more closely related to that of an ancient, heavily-eroded plateau.
Just as unique as the region itself are the products that come from it, whiskey in particular. In fact, on August 28th, 2022, the Ozark Highland name will begin to appear on spirits produced in this region that fulfill standard criteria of production. This new regional designation, like that of champagne, cognac, and bourbon, will set these spirits apart from the rest while earning them the recognition they deserve and supporting the communities where they come from. This new law passing into effect is the result of distillers from across the state, like Demetrius Cain, founder of Nobletons Distilling House, working with legislators for the past 4 years to protect and recognize the Ozark Highlands’ history of whiskey production and the unique properties of whiskeys made here.
To be certified an Ozark Highland spirit, the following criteria must be met:
- Must be mashed, fermented, aged, distilled, and bottled in the Ozark Highlands ecoregion.
- Must be aged in Missouri white oak barrels or barrels from the region.
- Must be distilled using environmentally-safe water that is chemical-free.
- Must be aged a minimum of 4 years.
Planters Whiskey – Showcasing Ozark Highland Whiskey
This new addition to the Nobletons Distilling House’s collection is not only a high-quality whiskey on its own, but it is also the perfect introduction for anyone wishing to experience Ozark Highland whiskey for themselves.
Planters Whiskey starts from heirloom grains grown in Missouri, some of which are grown by Nobletons Distilling House and the rest from farmers located across the state. By only using heirloom grains, the distillers ensure the final product will have a distinct creamy butteriness with a lingering finish reminiscent of popcorn. Along with these heirloom grains, the mash bill features Canadian rye, specifically chosen for its added punch of spice on the nose.
Excluding the rye, the rest of the grains are then malted. This allows the distillers to forego the artificial enzymes other whiskey makers depend on to produce sugars in their grains. Malting the grains creates naturally-occurring enzymes which allow for a more stable fermentation. For Planters Whiskey, fermentation is a long, cool process, lasting for around 48 days – quite a bit longer than most other whiskeys. Next, the whiskey is passed through their specially-made, Armagnac Armagnacais-inspired still, which is crafted entirely from Missouri copper.
Aging then takes place in toasted Missouri white oak barrels, which have been a top pick among whiskey producers for decades. White oak grows around the U.S., but the biggest supplier of this popular barrel-making wood is Missouri, where 8 different varieties can be found. It’s the most durable category of oak and has a unique plastic-like characteristic to its cell walls, which makes it ideal for crafting barrels. Aging in white oak also gives whiskey warm vanilla and sweet caramel notes, another reason it is so popular among distillers.
Cain was a major force behind the passing of the bill establishing the Ozark Highland region and the creation of Planters Whiskey. He drew his inspiration for both of these ventures from the highly-esteemed industry surrounding Kentucky and its bourbon, but his goal is not to tear down or even compete with bourbon.