New LeClaire Distillery to Make Gin, Vodka and Whiskey

By George C. Ford, Reporter

LECLAIRE, Iowa - Construction has begun on a new distillery in LeClaire that expects to begin operation later this year.

Mississippi River Distilling Co. plans to produce handmade, premium gin, vodka and whiskey made from locally grown grains. It would be the first distillery to operate in the Quad Cities since the end of Prohibition and the second Eastern Iowa distillery to produce spirits from Iowa corn and other grains.

Cedar Ridge Vineyards Winery & Distillery in Swisher manufactures bourbon whiskey, brandy, gin, grappa, rum, vodka and wine from locally grown fruits and grains. On July 1, Cedar Ridge became the first Iowa distillery to produce bourbon whiskey from corn since the end of Prohibition.

Garrett Burchett, a partner with Mississippi River Distilling, said the public will be able to tour the company's distillery to see the production of vodka, gin and bourbon whiskey.

"We are so excited about the potential for our company in LeClaire," Burchett said. "The town fits our company's image and the proximity to Interstate 80 gives us a steady stream of potential tourists to visit our facility.

"The community has been a great partner in bringing this dream to reality."

A new Iowa law that took effect on July 1 allows micro-distilleries in Iowa to offer and tastings on the distillery premises and sell up to two bottles of spirits per customer. Cedar Ridge launched its Iowa Bourbon on July 1 to coincide with the new law.

Mississippi River Distilling will use a 1,000-liter handmade German pot still to produce vodka, gin and bourbon whiskey. The copper and stainless steel still, which will be a focal point of the new distillery, will be manufactured by German craftsmen over a six-month period.

The Mississippi River Distilling building is the first of four structures to be constructed that will extend the existing downtown retail area of LeClaire to the north. They will develop a block of land that has stood empty for several years.

While some Iowans invested in a Fort Dodge distillery venture in the 1960s that proposed to make whiskey from corn, Beaver Creek Distillery Inc. never built a production facility.

The organizers of Beaver Creek Distillery raised about $3 million in cash from 4,300 stockholders at $2 per share. They abandoned the plan when they learned that whiskey could be purchased and bottled for less than it would cost to produce from Iowa corn.

Beaver Creek Distillery changed its name to Beaver Creek Industries and subsequently relocated from Fort Dodge to Atlanta, Ga. Several acquisitions were announced, but none ever came to fruition.
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