And it all starts with corn. My family has been growing corn in Illinois for five generations.
Three years ago, we expanded Walter Farms and built a distillery on a patch of our prime farmland in DeKalb. Our 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. In the interest of 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.
“That’s great, Jamie, but is your business sustainable?” I’m glad you asked.
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.
We don’t take that for granted. To protect our soil and water for future generations of Walter family farmers, we use fewer pesticides and fertilizers to grow corn.
We recycle the leftover corn we use to make whiskey into livestock feed, and we use livestock manure as fertilizer. That’s all part of the circle of sustainable agriculture.
The beauty of building a brand new distillery is that we 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.
That’s what we mean when we 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.