An Interview with Derek LeRoy
Black Shire Distillery’s Derek LeRoy is known for creating an impressive lineup of spirits that capture the history and flavor of Missouri. He focuses on developing flavor during fermentation and carefully aging the bourbon and rye in Missouri white oak casks built and charred not too far from Hermann. Currently, Black Shire Distillery produces small batch bourbon, gin, rye, eau de vie, vodka and a best-selling blackberry whiskey. Stop in for a tour, tasting, and signature cocktail. Don’t forget to bring a bottle home to enjoy later.
1. How did you get started in the spirit business?
I went to school for Viticulture/Enology and started at the brewery after. Three years ago, I started the distillery. My father is a wine maker and has been for 40 years, so you could say it’s in my blood.
2. What is your whiskey style?
We do Bourbon, Rye, Blended Whiskey, and of course the Blackberry. We’re still learning the complexities of our rackhouse and are starting to experiment with other mash bills, barrel entry proofs, and barrels. The great thing about being a newer distillery is we’re able to work from a blank canvas and experiment with creating more complex whiskeys. We’re not locked into a single style.
3. In the world of whiskey, who do you most admire and why? Who influences you?
I’m very impressed with what Heaven Hill has created. They have a great story, and the complexity of their different brands of whiskey is fantastic.
4. Any whiskey-making tips for those just getting into distilling or those interested in spirits?
Growing up in the wine industry and then brewing before distilling, I’ve realized I care a great deal more about fermentation than a lot of the distillers. I’ve found that good fermentation is the most important step of a good whiskey.
5. What is one of the most rewarding things about your job?
I’ve been working on some barrel-aged brandies that are aging really nicely, and I cannot wait to release them to the public. Growing up in the wine industry – that has kind of been my passion project. It’s like I’ve come full circle from wine to beer to whiskey and now using wine to create brandy.
6. Lastly, tell us a bit about the distillery. What is unique about it, and what makes it a great place to visit while in Hermann?
Our distillery produces a full line of spirits. We are located on our absolutely beautiful 200-acre living history farm and have a great tasting room in the heart of downtown Hermann offering tasting, cocktails, and retail shopping.