Whiskey Acres is a fifth generation farm family that took a product that’s abundant in Illinois, corn, and is making it into a farm to spirit whiskey and vodka. Since the 1930s, the Walter family has tilled 2,000 acres surrounding the white clapboard farmhouse where Jim Walter grew up with his wife of 45 years, Sue. The idea for the distillery came to them in 2011 after an Illinois law relaxing craft distillery regulation passed in 2010 and the Walter family was searching for a way to create more revenue on the farm. In 2013, Jim along with his son Jamie Walter and Nick Nagele bet the farm on this whiskey idea. After gaining all necessary permits, their copper still was up and running the week before Christmas 2014. They came to market with their first product in February 2015.
Annually, Whiskey Acres produces up to 70,000 bottles of bourbon, rye, corn whiskey, vodka and an artisan series of small-batch bourbons. Whiskey Acres is only the nation’s second “certified farm distillery,” an American Distilling Institute distinction bestowed upon facilities that produce spirits made from grains grown on the same farm as where the distillery operates.
Here’s Whiskey Acres’ family recipe: mix water from the farm’s underground limestone aquifer with 1,000 pounds of freshly ground grain, called mash. Boil in a 500-gallon stainless steel tank for five hours. Pour into tanks with live yeast. Ferment five days, turning it into distiller’s beer (it’s fermentation that infuses the air with the scent of baking bread). Now Flo takes over, the 500-gallon still named after several women in the Walter family. Inside her curvaceous copper potbelly, caramel-colored beer turns into crystal-clear alcohol. It’s stored in a divided stainless steel tank, capturing the purest alcohol.