Jeff Hadden, founder of Patriarch Distillers/Soldier Valley Spirits, is a military veteran who is passionate about family, service, and small-batch distillation. Award-winning, handcrafted bourbon, vodka, rum, and whiskies are packaged and sold in a unique bottle modeled after the iconic World War II canteen, each label featuring a meaningful story about a veteran and highlighting the ‘6’ logo, which in military terms means “I’ve got your back.”
Hadden’s interest in distilling started small, but after training with master distillers such as Jimmy Bedford at Jack Daniels, he quickly outgrew his garage and moved into the current location. Echoing the transient nature of the military, everything was originally built on casters for easy transport. If you visit the tasting room, you’ll notice the bar remains on wheels today.
Grains used to make the distinctive offerings are sourced locally, and the water comes from Soldier, Iowa, hometown of Hadden’s father and the company’s namesake. Aging happens in new American white oak barrels, crafted by regional artisan coopers from nearby Minnesota. Spent barrels are recycled and ultimately used for artisan furniture.
Unique to Patriarch is the private barrel experience, essentially an extended class in which budding distillers can leverage on-site equipment and knowledge to craft bespoke whiskies and bourbons. Students meet with distiller Tony Chickinelli to discuss desired flavor profiles, and he ferments the batch accordingly. When the mash is ready to distill, students return to complete the process. Chickinelli said the learning is reciprocal, and he is often inspired to try new things based on customer interactions.
Tours and a tasting room are available on-site, and the operation is part of the Exit 442 group, promoting craft beverage producers with locations near the I-80 exit. Next month, look for the third annual Groundhog Day event in which Exit 442 brewers offer beers aged in Patriarch barrels.
Visit the tasting room for a tour or to try unique flavored whiskey options, including a seasonal caramel apple and the wildly popular blackberry whiskey, created for an ice fishing tournament in South Dakota (ice fisherman are known to enjoy a nip of blackberry brandy when on the ice). For more information, visit soldiervalleyspirits.com.