GENEVA – Fox River Distilling Company, 204 Dearborn Court, Geneva, took top awards at the Heartland Whiskey Competition for its Bennett Mill Single Barrel Straight Bourbon.
It won a trophy for Best in Show, Best in State for Illinois and a gold medal for Best Straight Whiskey in the May 18 competition held in Chicago, said owner Mike Orlando.
The Bennett Mill won out of more than 75 whiskey products from 10 states, he said.
The Bennett Mill also won a Silver Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in April. It was judged by a panel of 43 international tasting experts who considered 2,253 entries from around the world, Orlando said.
In addition, this is the third year the company’s product received back-to-back medals for its Herrington Geneva’s Gin and Herrington Premium Vodka in the international competition, Orlando said.
“Everything wins awards,” Orlando said. “We are not concerned about quantity; we are concerned about quality and taste. It’s all about the taste and quality.”
The company, which is three years old, is a small, family-run distillery, Orlando said.
“My daughter is the assistant distiller here on a day-to-day basis, and my wife handles sales and I come up with all the recipes,” Orlando said. “We are never going to be the biggest distillery in town. I want to focus more on taste and quality.”
Bennett Mill Single Barrel Straight Bourbon takes its name from the original grain mill built in 1846 on the east bank of the Fox River, north of the State Street bridge, Orlando said.
“It was falling apart, and the Bennett brothers [Henry and Charles] bought it in 1865 and built a successful business,” Orlando said. “They sold Geneva Bells Flour in the A&P Grocery stores.”
Orlando said he wanted his spirits to reflect Geneva’s history, so the brown spirits – the bourbon, rye and malt whiskey – are all called Bennett Mill. The clear spirits, like gin and vodka, all have Herrington in their names.
“We partnered with the Geneva History Museum to try to figure out the tie-ins,” Orlando said. “Geneva was founded by James Clayton Herrington, a distiller and general store keeper in Pennsylvania. He packed it up in the prairie schooner and headed west.”
James and Charity Herrington arrived in the area that was to become Geneva in 1835. James Herrington set up a general store and started making whiskey in Geneva, contributing to building the infrastructure of Geneva, Orlando said.
“We thought it fitting, since he was founder of town, we would name all our clear spirits Herrington,” Orlando said.
More information is available by calling 630-402-0027 or visiting www.foxriverdistilling.com.