By Gwen Clayton
Just in time for Sunday alcohol sales, local distiller Joe Collins is releasing bottles of his great-grandfather’s sour mash, Old Coe.
“For the first time ever, we have our 90-year-old family recipe, prohibition-era whiskey,” Collins said at a release party Feb. 23 at S&V Liquors in Churubusco.
His great-grandfather, Joseph “Coe” Dupuis, was a prohibition-era Cajun moonshiner from Breaux Bridge, La. back in 1928. The patriarch passed away in September 2000.
“I started making this (sour mash) in 2012 in my garage,” Collins said. “I learned from his apprentice.”
Collins and his distilling partner Luke Leggett hammer-mill everything onsite at their distillery in Churubusco. They mash it, ferment it, triple-distill it and double-charcoal-filter it. Sometimes, they get friends to help hand label and bottle the concoctions.
“(The Old Coe is) technically not a whiskey,” Collins said. “Grandpa made his recipe in 1928 before the government decided what was and wasn’t a whiskey.”
Nowadays, whiskeys must be made with be 100-percent grain.
“During prohibition, most moonshiners added sugar to their mash — basically to pump up their ABV,” Collins said. “Ours is corn and sugarcane, so it’s technically a distilled-spirit specialty.”
Ergo, the label reads: “Indiana sour mash.”
“It’s kind of its own little deal,” he added. “It looks, drinks, and everything else like a whiskey. I call it Prohibition-era whiskey unofficially, because that’s what it is.”
Collins sources the corn for his mash from Ag Plus in South Whitley County. He then adds organic sugar, which is sourced from Brazil, but purchased through a local distributor. The bottle designs are trademarked by a company in Missouri. The labels are from a female-owned Indiana company out of New Albany.
“Everything except the bottles is locally made,” Collins said. “Everything else from cork to countertop is Indiana.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Indiana Senate Bill 1 on Feb. 28, allowing for the sale of carryout alcoholic beverages on Sundays from noon until 8 p.m. The bill took effect immediately, making March 4 the first Sunday since the state’s inception in 1816 to see carryout sales of alcohol on that day of the week, despite passage of the 21st Amendment in 1933 overturning Prohibition.
The 2018 law impacts an estimated 3,800 liquor stores, groceries, pharmacies and convenience stores, according to the Associated Press. However, Hoosiers remain the only Americans unable to purchase cold beer in grocery stores or cold soda in liquor stores. The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association claims Indiana is the only state that regulates beer sales by temperature.