© 2024 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

J.K. Williams Distillery Revived in Former Biehls Cleaners Building

Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio
Bottles of the revived J.K. Williams whiskey at the Country Club of Peoria.

The former Biehls commercial dry cleaners on Industrial Road is now home to a whiskey distillery.
New owner Andy Faris is reviving the J.K. Williams Distillery that went out of business back in 2018.

"It's almost purpose-built for a distillery," Faris said of the new building. "If you can imagine what they needed for a laundry and dry-cleaning business, that's exactly what we need for this. Steam, trench drains, air handlers, a massive amount of electricity. So it's all there, and it's great."

Faris said the 20,000-square-foot building also offers room for expansion.

"We do not want to be a boutique, small, small craft distiller," he said. "We want to be larger than that."

Faris said the revived distillery is currently producing three times the whiskey as the former J.K. Williams operation in East Peoria. A new 1,000-gallon still is still arriving in the next few months will up that output to 10 times the former facility, which produced about a barrel a day.

Faris said the first bottles of J.K. Williams whiskey go on sale this week at UFS and Binny's Liquor Depot. A separate retail location also is in the works for Peoria's riverfront next year.

Faris said he eventually plans statewide distribution, adding he's assembled a formidable team to accomplish that goal, including Jeff Murphy, the former head distiller of Bayou Rum; and Nick Nelson, the former brand manager of Woodford Reserve.

"We really feel we've brought some industry experience in to really make this an important part of the community," said Farris.

Peoria was once considered the "Whiskey Capital of the World" in pre-prohibition days, when breweries and distilleries lined the Illinois River for miles. But whiskey hasn't been made here in large quantities since the Hiram Walker distillery--once the world's largest--ended production in 1982.

Faris, a Minneapolis native, said he plans to keep the operation based in Peoria.

"This is a great place: nice people, easy to do business with, genuine. And it's a very proud community, too," he said. "We're excited. For us, this is a story of perserverance. Things didn't look so great in March when my wife and I were sick with COVID, and here we are. We're doing this."

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WCBU will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WCBU can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.