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Illinois Celebrates World Whisky Day

Illinois Celebrates World Whisky Day

It might be whisky (with no ‘e’) when referring to Scottish, Canadian, or Japanese grain spirits, but when it comes to grain spirits distilled in Ireland and the United States – it’s whiskey (with an ‘e’). Regardless of how it’s spelled, today, Saturday 18 May the world will unite to celebrate World Whisky Day - the annual day celebrating whisky, inviting everyone to try a dram and celebrate the water of life, but do you know the history of whiskey in Illinois?
Kentucky and Tennessee might be the states that come to mind when thinking of whiskey in the United States however, Illinois and more specifically Peoria,  located along the Illinois River160 miles southwest of Chicago, was known as ‘The Whiskey Capital of the World.’

Boasting over 24 breweries and 73 distilleries from 1837 to 1919, Peoria was dubbed the ‘Whiskey Capital of the World’ due to its plentiful supply of grains, access to clean spring water, dependable transport and fuel resources.

During the 1860s – 1870s Peoria experienced a boom in their liquor industry with many of Peoria’s whiskey producing sites concentrated on ‘Distillery Row’ along the Illinois River.

In the 1880s,Joseph B Greenhut helped build the Great Western Distillery in Peoria, which became known as the largest distillery in the world.

In 1917 Prohibition saw the end offermenting and distilling beverages.This didn’t stop the locals of Peoria who felt “Prohibition was only a suggestion in Peoria,” according to Marilyn Leyland of East Peoria, a guide for the Peoria Historical Society’s trolley tours on the local liquor industry.


Post-prohibition, 1933 onwards, saw60 speakeasies in Peoria close, immediately, removing false fronts and reopening as taverns.

Today in Illinois there are still over 35 whiskey distilleries in operation. As part of the Illinois Made Makers programme, you too can discover local Illinois distilleries by visiting:

Copper Fiddle Distillery, Lake Zurich
Copper Fiddle Distillery | Enjoy Illinois

Copper Fiddle Distillery uses a handmade copper pot to distil all their spirits. “Fiddle” was from a family heirloom violin made in Chicago in 1906. They source grains from the Midwest and their distilling equipment is proudly made in the USA. All spirit products are handmade, grain to bottle, at their Lake Zurich distillery.

Thornton Distillery, Thornton
Thornton Distilling and Brewing Co. | Enjoy Illinois

One of the oldest standing distilleries in Illinois, founded in 1857, Thornton Distilling co. specialises in traditional malt whisky production. Their single malt whiskey is the first to utilize locally sourced Illinois’ peat.

Whiskey Acres Distillery, Dekalb
Illinois’ Family Owned Whiskey Distillery | Enjoy Illinois

Spirits are distilled down on the Walter family farm at Whiskey Acres, in Northern Illinois’ DeKalb County. Whiskey Acres Distilling Co. crafts the only bourbon, whiskey and vodka made in the state from grain seeds sown, grown, harvested, distilled, barrelled, bottled and sold on the same slice of fertile Illinois farmland since the 1930s.

Chicago Distilling Company, Chicago’s North Side
Small Batch Chicago Distillery | Enjoy Illinois

Family owned and run Chicago Distilling Company welcomes visitors to watch as each recipe is distilled, crafted, bottled and packaged.

Quincy Street Distillery, Chicago
Quincy Street Distillery, Illinois | Enjoy Illinois

As part of the historic region of the Chicago suburb of Riverside, Quincy Street Distillery’s storefront sits shoulder-to-shoulder with similarly enchanting enterprises loyal to the area’s original, “early suburban” design created by Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscaping mastermind behind New York’s Central Park.

Blaum Bros Distilling Co., Galena

Without any formal training, the Blaum Brothers set up shop in historic Galena, where they craft small batches of rye, whiskey and vodka. By sourcing grains from local farmers and controlling the entire process in a purpose-built facility, they produce the highest-quality spirits the old-fashioned way. The brothers have recently opened a Public House on historic Main Street in Galena

Discover more Illinois makers and artisans at Illinois Made

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