After a yearlong search for buried treasure, Iowa Legendary Rye struck gold in its quest to locate and uncover a piece of its 90-year history.
Using a specially trained sniffer dog following the scent of rye, a still thought to have been used and then buried by Prohibition-era bootlegger Lorine Sextro was discovered at a farm just outside Templeton, Iowa last week.
Legend had it a still and 15 barrels were buried nearly 90 years ago at the height of Prohibition and the Great Depression by Lorine Sextro and her family to avoid being caught distilling rye by the federal government. In 2018, Iowa Legendary Rye commissioned search specialists to locate the missing still and barrels. After a few promising leads, the search continued after the fields had been harvested at a site of interest in November.
The discovery is thought to be the still used by Lorine Sextro in 1932. Bottles with date marks from that era along with charred oak consistent with the material used to make rye barrels were found buried at the same site.
“Unearthing the still my grandmother used to bootleg rye during Prohibition is a hugely significant discovery for Iowa Legendary Rye and for Iowa’s bootlegging history,” Heath Schneider with Iowa Legendary Rye said. “Using Grandma Sextro’s recipe, we have always crafted Iowa Legendary Rye authentically just as she would have. This gives us another opportunity to step back in time to Iowa’s Prohibition history.”
The search will continue, weather dependent, to find more of the missing barrels. If any barrels are discovered intact, it would be another significant discovery for Iowa Legendary Rye.
“Being able to find just one of the 15 barrels buried nearly 90 years ago intact would be a game changer,” Schneider added. “Just three molecules from the barrel can produce the exact same yeast that Grandma Sextro used. We’re 95% of the way to making our rye exactly like she used to. Having that yeast is the missing link. With it, we’d be able to make Iowa Legendary Rye exactly like she made it in the 1930s.”
Learn more about the story behind Iowa Legendary Rye at IowaLegendaryRye.com.