Cream of the Crops

Appears in the April 2022 issue.

Turns out, the true whiskey rebels—the real-deal mad bourbon scientists—aren’t mashing grains and charring barrels in Bardstown, Kentucky, or Lynchburg, Tennessee. No, sir. They’re raising boutique corn and rye on a sprawling farm in DeKalb, Illinois, dubbed the Whiskey Acres Distilling Co.

The farm-based distillery offers $10 tours of its “seed-to-still” operation every weekend. It’s a different kind of outfit. Most bourbon makers, even the luxury players, buy commodity-grade corn. Usually boring old No. 2 Yellow Dent corn. 

Whiskey Acres grows its own higher-end yellow corn and makes experimental spirits from the likes of Oaxacan Green corn, Shaman’s Blue popcorn, and sweet AC Hazlet rye. They harvest it, mash it, and distill it on the premises, using water sourced from the farm’s pristine limestone aquifers. 

You learn, then sip. And trust us: Your taste buds won’t know what hit ’em. Butterscotch-forward bourbons with dark chocolate finishes. Soft ryes with wisps of white pepper rather than harsh Tellicherry finishes. And ultrasmooth bottled-in-bond bourbon, which won the Double Gold at the 2021 San Francisco World Championships. 

 “Most of our country’s early distillers were farmers,” says Nick Nagele, “so we’re not doing something crazy here, so much as returning to where we started.” 

Photo courtesy