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A Dog Sniffed Out a Prohibition-Era Whiskey Still That Was Buried for Decades

dog whiskey still
Courtesy of Iowa Legendary Rye

For at least one day, the most important employee at the Iowa Legendary Rye distillery was a pooch. 

Distillery CEO Heath Schneider makes small-batch rye whiskey with the recipe used by his grandmother, Lorine Sextro. She was a bootlegger, making rye whiskey on her family farm in Iowa. Now, a dog (and, fine, some humans) have located her original equipment, which was buried underground for almost 90 years in an effort to avoid detection by those meddling Feds.

To uncover the buried treasure, Iowa Legendary hired specialists to use a specially trained sniffer dog that can follow the scent of rye. That pup, along with metal detectors, helped unearth some of what they were looking for. The yearlong search to find a still and 15 barrels believed to have been buried at Sextro's former farm outside Templeton, Iowa was successful. Last week, the still and a few bottles believed to have once contained Sextro's rye were found.

iowa legendary rye
Courtesy of Iowa Legendary Rye

"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," Schneider says. "Using Grandma Sextro's recipe, we have always crafted Iowa Legendary Rye authentically just as she should would have. This gives us another opportunity to step back in time to Iowa's Prohibition history."

Schneider tells Thrillist the search isn't over yet. He hopes to uncover at least one of the missing barrels that once held Grandma Sextro's hooch. If found, he could propagate yeast from the barrels, and begin using the yeast strain that was at work for his family during Prohibition. It'd help them get even closer to recreating exactly what you might have tossed back if you were sneaking drinks in Prohibition-era Iowa. 

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.