Jim and Jamie Walter, and Nick Nagele gazed out at their cornfields this year with a different perspective than most farmers – calculating bottles per acre rather than bushels per acre. As founders of Illinois’ first estate distillery, their outside the box thinking has helped them to gain notoriety in both the distilling and agriculture worlds.
Whiskey Acres began distilling in December of 2014. Only six months later, their first unaged products had already won awards at three international double blind tasting competitions and were sold at over 100 locations throughout Illinois.
Whiskey Acres then opened their doors to the public for tours in July of 2015. Upon arrival visitors walk up a flagstone walkway made from stones sourced from an 1860’s era sheep barn. The walkway leads into an historic tasting room which was built using stone and timber from the original dairy barn on the family farmstead.
Tours are often led by the owners themselves, who explain the entire process of making whiskey – from Seed to Spirit. To date, over 2500 visitors from over 30 states, 25 countries and all 7 continents have ventured out to experience DeKalb’s #1 ranked destination on TripAdvisor. “We look at our tasting room as an obvious place to tell the story of our whiskey,” said Jamie. “Maybe even more importantly, it’s become a place to tell the story of agriculture – which has a lot of ties to DeKalb.”
Whiskey Acres focuses much of their production on making bourbon. “Bourbon is the fastest growing spirit category in the world. And its main ingredient is corn. So it only makes sense for us, as corn farmers, to produce as much bourbon as possible,” said Nick Nagele. Their first batches of barrel-aged bourbon will be available in late spring of 2016. They also make a rye whiskey that will be available in late 2016.
Beyond traditional bourbon, which is primarily made from yellow dent corn, Whiskey Acres just completed single batches of their Artisan Series, which includes bourbons made from blue popcorn, heirloom oaxacan green corn, and sweet corn. These will be available in very limited quantities late fall of 2016.
Whiskey Acres Fast Facts:
- Illinois’ first estate distillery, growing their own corn, wheat, rye and specialty grains
- Tasting room is open Fri-Sun, March – November. See whiskeyacres.com for times.
- First, limited release of bourbon in Spring 2016.
- Location: 11504 Keslinger Rd, DeKalb, IL 60115