FarmHer Liz Henry: The “Bourbon Babe”
Meet FarmHer Liz Henry, AKA the “Bourbon Babe.” Liz grew up in Wisconsin and, as if one uber-cool moniker were not enough, she also boasts the envious title of “Alice in Dairyland.” Like so many FarmHers we meet, she married a farmer and the rest is FarmHer history. Having spent her life and career in farming and the agriculture industry, she is a wealth of knowledge. In addition to her hands-on experience on the farm, her career has included work in corporate agriculture, and she has also taught at the University of Wisconsin.
In 2009 Liz and her husband John took a trip to Kentucky that changed their course of life. At the time, John had been operating his family’s generational seed corn business. Some visits to Kentucky bourbon distilleries helped them decide to take that seed corn to a new level. They started growing a special variety of red corn, and crafted that into their now famous J Henry and Sons Bourbon.
The tasting room for J Henry and Sons is in the converted farm house where her husband John was raised. Bourbon is a specific type of whiskey, brewed only in the U.S. Liquor that is sold as “bourbon” must be made of at least 51% corn and must also be aged in brand new, charred oak barrels.
The variety of red corn that is used in J Henry and Sons bourbon was actually developed at the University of Wisconsin, a place that is near and dear to the Henry family. After harvesting, the corn is sent off site to a distiller. It comes back in the barrels, ready for aging at the farm. This is where the “sons” come into play. Liz and John’s sons have both found their way back to the farm and are part of the family business today.
After a barrel of bourbon has aged for at least five years it is tested for quality. Liz and her son Joe have gone through rigorous training to be able to detect the slightest hints of flavors in the Bourbon and grade it based on that. Some of the varieties then get blended to enhance their flavor. Barns both old and new on the property serve as barrel storage facilities, where row upon row upon row of brown barrels rest patiently.
While Liz’s story is uniquely hers, the drive, creativity and desire to spread a love of agriculture, while preserving their farm for the next generation, is a common trait of FarmHers wherever they are found.