Distillery Feature: Whiskey Acres

Great whiskey isn’t made, it’s grown

And it all starts with corn. The Walter family has been growing corn in Illinois for five generations. 

Three years ago, they expanded Walter Farms and built a distillery on a patch of prime farmland in DeKalb. The new business is called Whiskey Acres, and it’s a true seed-to-spirit distillery.

At Whiskey Acres, it’s like the local foods movement on steroids. You can see the different types of field corn we grow to make our whiskey. Full disclosure: watching corn grow is exactly as exciting as it sounds.

You can also watch us mill (crush) the corn, cook the corn to make mash, ferment it, distill it, fill the barrels, bottle it – and enjoy the end result. All these steps make for far more interesting viewing, smelling and tasting.

Sustainable farming

This may come as news to many Chicagoans, but Illinois is blessed with some of the best soil and water on earth. The water on our farm is perfect – it’s naturally filtered through a limestone aquifer found deep under our land.

The Walters don’t take that for granted. To protect the soil and water for future generations of Walter family farmers, they use fewer pesticides and fertilizers to grow corn.

They recycle the leftover corn they use to make whiskey into livestock feed, and use livestock manure as fertilizer. That’s all part of the circle of sustainable agriculture.

Sustainable distilling

The beauty of building a brand new distillery is that they could also take advantage of best practices in sustainable design.

“Our distillery is engineered to use very little water. In fact, we use less than 1,000 gallons of water a day, which is a fraction of the industry standard. And, we recycle most of the water we use in our cooling systems. The only water we don’t capture and recycle is what actually goes in the bottle or what we lose when washing the equipment,” said Jamie Walter, president and CEO of Whiskey Acres Distilling Co.

That’s what the Walter family means when they say great whiskey isn’t made, it’s grown. Ours is grown from sustainably raised corn – a renewable resource – and finished in a sustainably designed distillery. 

You should try some. It’ll sustain your spirit.  See how we grow great spirits with a quick virtual tour of Whiskey Acres.   

Have more questions? While at the festival, you’ll have the opportunity to meet an Illinois corn farmer. We know you’ll leave in even better spirits because you did. Or visit watchusgrow.org/corn.

Jamie farms with his father, Jim, and their partner, Nick Nagle. Together, they grow corn and distill it into whiskey on their farm in DeKalb, IL.

The Heartland Spirits Fest
The Heartland Spirits Fest is a celebration of grain-to-glass cocktails and farm-to-table food. The festival will take place in Chicago on Saturday, May 20th at the one-and-only Concord Music Hall. Get your tickets now before they're gone!

Matt Tanaka