As the descendants of bootleg whiskey-making master J.K. Williams, we feel a certain responsibility to bring craft whiskey-and bourbon-making back to the Peoria area. Our great-great-grandpa was a family man with an extraordinary work ethic and an undeniable talent for making some of the best whiskey of his time.
From the age of sixteen, J.K. developed his craft working for two decades in distilleries. Once World War I ended and soldiers re-claimed their distilling positions at home, J.K. was left without an outlet for his skills or a way to earn a living. With a wife and six hungry mouths to feed, he took to the backwoods to resume whiskey-making in secret.
Prohibition seemed to fuel the public’s desire for whiskey, but J.K. refused to take the shortcuts that other bootleggers used to boost profits. J.K.’s passion for his craft drew more than praise from locals. His whiskey attracted unwanted attention from law enforcement and outlaws alike. Although his dedication to spirit-making was rivaled only by his commitment to family, J.K.’s livelihood now posed a threat to our great-great-grandparents and their kids.
Fed up with the dangers that came with underground whiskey-making, J.K. and his wife took their six young ones and headed south. Luckily, their oldest son Buck had acted as J.K.’s assistant and kept the whiskey recipe over the years. Just before his death, he passed it on to his only child, our grandpa Ron. We’re thrilled to have access to J.K.’s recipe and the chance to start a long overdue revival of craft whiskey-making.
Just like J.K. in his day, the current Williams generation is in the midst of raising families in Central Illinois while creating our own craft whiskey legacy. We’re taking J.K.’s vision into the future while retaining the heritage of incredible small-batch whiskey that is tied to the Williams name.
Maybe it’s the promise of full-flavored bourbon and whiskey made in a small-batch pot still that evokes our great-great-grandpa’s vision. Or maybe it’s a desire to bring back the spirit of adventure that fueled the era of bootlegging during Prohibition.
Luckily, we aren’t forced to work as outlaws to create high-quality whiskey and bourbon. Despite having an easier path behind and ahead of us, we hope J.K. Williams would be as proud as we are of our craft spirits made in the distinctive style for which he was known around these parts.
Jon & Kristin and Jesse & Kassi Williams
The fact that fate brought together two couples bearing the same combined initials as those of J.K. Williams seemed like a sign to Jon, Kristin, Jesse and Kassi Williams. Their shared initials and last name aren’t the only things the young couples have in common with their pioneering predecessor. The younger Williams generation works hard to support their families in careers ranging from commercial banking and human resources (Jon and Kristin) to diesel mechanic and nurse (Jesse and Kassi). Current and past generations share a passion for creating top-notch craft whiskey without relying on shortcuts.