There hasn't been an aged whiskey produced in Louisiana since before Prohibition — until now. Thibodaux's Donner-Peltier Distillery (www.dpdspirits.com) opened in 2012 and uses Louisiana sugarcane and pecans to make spiced rum, rice to make its Oryza vodka, and botanicals such as satsuma and cantaloupe to flavor gin — and it recently introduced LA1 Louisiana Whiskey.
"It's something that is really part of the micro-distillery industry right now," says Tom Donner, one of the distillery's founders. "Every distillery seems to want to do a whiskey. It has the reputation of being an all-American drink, and we really appreciate that. For us, a big part of it too was an expansion of our product line."
Like bourbon and most Tennessee whiskeys, the 94-proof spirit is aged in charred American oak barrels. But unlike those American spirits, LA1 contains not three but four grains (five if you count two distinct varieties of barley). Most bourbons are a combination of corn (a minimum of 51 percent by law), malted barley and either rye or wheat. LA1 contains corn, rye and barley and local rice.
"It's a tip of the hat to Louisiana farmers," Donner says. "We have a mission to support Louisiana farmers. Everything we make is going to have Louisiana agriculture in it. There's not an extensive amount of barley and rye in Louisiana that's suitable for distilling, but as it turns out, [rice] adds a lovely sweetness."
LA1 is not yet available on local shelves. "We're getting ready to start an expansion on the distillery entirely dedicated to whiskey production," Donner says. "Now that we have the recipe down, we're going into full production once we complete our expansion. We're planning a full release throughout the state by Christmastime."
Until then, limited quantities of single barrel, unblended whiskeys are available from the distillery via a waiting list. "We're releasing the half-dozen barrels distilled in 2013 as soon as they're ready," he says.
Donner jokes that LA1 may not be the first barrel-aged whiskey made in Louisiana since Prohibition — at least not the first made legally. "We've had some characters come by the distillery to tell us that they beat us to the punch," he says. "I've had at least three or four guys tell me that we needed to call it 'LA2' because of the whiskey that they'd made in their garage."