From grain to glass: a sustainable approach

Though many people stumble upon family heirlooms in the nooks and crannies of their childhood homes, these nostalgic discoveries rarely spark new career paths. Yet, when Graham Rupe spied his grandfather’s old still tucked into the attic of his rural Nebraska childhood home in 2010, it ignited a long-held passion for creating and building. 

The spirited notion simmered for nearly a decade until 2018, when a friend noticed a suitable building for sale in Wahoo, Nebraska. Rupe purchased the property and launched into the arduous task of transforming the space into a working distillery. 

Rupe completed much of the work himself, scouting and acquiring salvageable parts from across the country. “It took three-and-a-half years from inception to finished product, but it’s been worth it,” Rupe reminisced. Throughout the process, the distiller relied on advice and help from other distillers and brewers for guidance.

The Original Wahoo Whiskey is crafted from three simple ingredients: Ogallala Aquifer water, number 2 yellow corn, and yeast. The corn is sourced from the Murren farm located just down the road near Colon, Nebraska. “It was important to find a single source of corn for consistency and they are easy to work with,” Rupe explained.

To ensure a sustainable process, Rupe identified opportunities to reduce, reuse, and recycle. From upcycled equipment to the spent grain enjoyed by the cattle of DND Farms in Prague, Nebraska, the facility is a shining example of making the world better for the next generation.

Onsite tours and tastings are available upon request for a small fee, and Rupe is eager to show visitors around the 1700-square-foot production area. “Wahoo as a community has been super supportive and great to work with.”

The first bottle sold on December 22, 2022, and Rupe’s pace hasn’t slowed since. The craft distiller travels across the state with his wares in tow, hosting samplings, selling product, and finding new fans of his 100 percent corn whiskey. According to Rupe, it’s a labor of love, “Just working for what you do and being able to produce something that makes people happy.”

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