Iowa Rapper Brews an Old School Whiskey from a Prohibition-Era Recipe, Bringing Hip Hop and Business Together

Iowa Rapper Brews an Old School Whiskey from a Prohibition-Era Recipe, Bringing Hip Hop and Business Together

3 minute read

by Robin Mosley

Rapper MarKaus Ashworth launched a new prohibition-era inspired whiskey that’s been backed by the hip-hop community in Des Moines, Iowa. 

The 28-year-old’s whiskey rye is backed by DJ Green Lantern, Darner, Aeon Grey, Mike Hurst (King Louie, Boosie), Sonic Militia and more. But how did Ashworth start this business? It all started with one recipe.

Ashworth came across a 100-year-old recipe after trying it in Carroll, Iowa. According to WhoTV, Ashworth met a local who if he wanted to try something “really good,” and what was inside was Ashworth’s lifesavings — a clear liquid, moonshine that made Ashworth feel like he was “seeing fireworks … hitting a three-point shot or [experiencing] [his] first kiss.”

His whiskey “Ziyad”, is named after an enslaved North-African who became a military general. Using the same techniques from the 1900s, Ashworth uses a farm-raised organic rye that is mashed and fermented, and then bottled. With the distiller Ashworth partnered they can produce about 300 bottles a day. Despite this, the whiskey had problems selling.

Ziyad was not an immediate hit and for a while, the brand did not make much money. But once Ashworth sold his liquor to a large supermarket, his brand began to pick up. After this successful partnership, Ashworth finally had the opportunity to see his liquor sell in person. 

“So I was walking through the liquor aisle to see like, did they get it? You’re walking through and I saw it on the shelves, and I’m like social media-ing, trying to sit back, trying to look cool a little bit, then the fliest thing happened. Somebody walked in, didn’t recognize me, didn’t know me, grabbed it walked right past me. Like I’ve sold thousands of CDs across the state. Seeing someone take that bottle, and then scan it, and then walk out? I was such a creep like I’m watching this lady all the way to her car like I want to run up to her and sign it. That was the best moment though” Ashworth said. 

Ziyad’s connection to the current hip-hop scene in Des Moines is key. “Ziyad Rye is fueled by the culture, especially hip hop culture. Not only does this signal a new chapter for independent artists, but for the economy itself … the modern day rapper isn’t just about hot 16’s- they’re about hot business plans as well,” Ashworth said. 

If you are interested in purchasing Ziyad, the whiskey rye sells for $53 and what’s next for Ashworth is releasing a new whiskey called “Ziyad Aged Rye” in the future, with the hope that the brand will b

« Back to Blog