Bill seeks to showcase Ozark Highlands distillation

The unique ecological conditions of a Missouri region and distilled spirits could receive an even bigger spotlight under a bill at the Missouri House.

The bill would allow spirits that are crushed, fermented, aged, distilled and bottled in the Ozark Highlands ecoregion, and aged in barrels in the region or made from Missouri white oak to be designated as spirits Ozark Highland. If certified, these spirits could be labeled as a product of the region and sold with the designation.

Spirits should also be distilled with environmentally safe water and aged for four years.

The region in question, which is mostly encapsulated by the central and southwestern regions of Missouri beginning just south of Jefferson City, also bleeds into Arkansas with small portions into Kansas and Oklahoma.

The Ozark Highlands are one of nine mountain regions in the world that are distinguished by the mineral composition of their soil and their limestone base, according to a testimony on the bill. The water there is lacking in iron, leading to an overall cleaner fermentation and a smoother, more delicate end product than spirits produced in other regions, something proponents said the bill would allow. the state to capitalize.

Rep. Derek Grier, R-Chesterfield, presented his bill to the House General Laws Committee this week, touting it as a chance for the state to showcase a unique quality of the state and its products.

“We have an opportunity here to create the Ozark Highlands distinction for those spirits that are distilled in our state,” Grier said. “I think it would be a great opportunity to recognize that and call out the very specific way of producing it that has been developed over the years and years in our state, and that will certainly help the industry that is here in our state to grow, to be more distinguished in the country and in the world for what we do here. It is very special, and it is important that we recognize it.

Grier pointed to iconic drinks closely associated with the region in which they were produced. Real champagne, for example, comes only from the Champagne wine region of France, which adheres to specific sourcing, pressing and fermentation methods that create a unique product associated with the region. .

“There are many other spirits and wines and other products that are produced around the world that are distinguished by the region they come from,” he said. “If we want to encourage the industry that is here, providing what this bill does will enable them to do that.”

Demetrious Cain, founder of Nobletons Distilling House, testified in support of the bill. The Cain Distillery is located in Marthasville, about 60 miles east of Jefferson City, and sits on the edge of the region. He also owns and operates farms in the Highlands.

“We are located in the Ozark Highlands, and we are the first to begin producing under the Ozark Highland whiskey designation,” Cain said. “It’s really important to us to have the designation that not only fosters within Missouri an inclusive production standard to develop a spirit that is part of a prestigious and geographically complex region, but also that internationally and nationally, we are able to compete by developing a spirit that can hold a similar standard to bourbon or scotch.”

Cain said the bill was broad and inclusive enough to extend to a plethora of Missouri distillers. He said the designation would not only make Missouri brands more important and revered across the country and internationally, but could also strengthen the small communities that are home to distilleries with tourism and commerce while potentially bringing new benefits. other businesses in the region to participate in this unique regional opportunity.

The Missouri Craft Distillers Guild, of which Cain is the secretary, is considering the possibility of a designation. He said the guild was in talks to develop a smaller guild dedicated to Ozark Highlands distillers, which is expected to start sometime this year.

Nearly half of the guild’s membership is in the Ozark Highlands region, Cain said.

White oak barrels are also a unique feature of Missouri, he said. The Show Me State is the largest producer of white oaks in the United States, with eight variants found throughout the state. The wood is waterproof and swells when soaked due to a plastic-like coating on its cells, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. It is also the most durable among the oak grades, MDC said.

Cain’s distillery currently ships white oak to New York for aging and cask building, though he said the guild is also looking at ways to bolster Missouri’s manufacturing footprint.

No one testified against the bill, although several lawmakers expressed support for the opportunity to strengthen the industry in Missouri.

The committee took no executive action on the matter this week.

Click on the link below to read the full invoice:

• HB 2621: Spirits of the Ozark Highlands

Sponsor: Representative Derek Grier

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