Whiskey Acres Bottled in Bond
Two years ago, I visited the Whiskey Acres Distillery in DeKalb, Illinois with a bourbon buddy. As it was, the distillery operated by Jim and Jamie Walter, along with Nick Nagele, was nearly a stone’s throw away from where Ryan grew up. The finished product they were offering at the time was a straight bourbon, right at 2 years old. This bottled-in-bond release, first offered during the Fall of 2020, is now slated to be their flagship product. Let’s see how a couple more years in the grain-bin-turned-rickhouse impacted the finished product.
Farm to Bottle Operation
When operations began at Whiskey Acres in 2014, the founders sought to provide a true farm-to-bottle operation. 2,000 acres of Northern Illinois farm ground serves as the source for the corn, wheat, and rye used in their spirits. When we last enjoyed our tour, I remarked to Ryan that I’d love to see a longer-aged product. Similar to several up and coming distillers, such as New Riff and Wilderness Trail, they are now offering a Bottled-in-Bond bourbon.
In addition to being at least 4 years old, this expression must adhere to the standards for quality and authenticity as prescribed in the 1897 Bottled-in-Bond Act. Spirits labeled as Bottled-in-Bond must be
a product of 1 distillation season, by a single distiller, at a single location
aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least 4 years
bottled at 100 proof
labeled to identify the distillery where it was distilled
produced in the United States
The rickhouses at Whiskey Acres reflect its row-crop-producing roots. Bourbons and ryes are aged in a metal grain bins. Before you raise an eyebrow, recall that Blanton’s single-barrel bourbon – a favorite of many – is aged at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky in humble Warehouse H – it, too, a metal-clad building. These structures allow the full impact of nature’s heating and cooling cycles, forcing spirits to make deep connections with their wooden barrels.
Whiskey Acres Bottled-in-Bond utilizes their homegrown grains as follows: 75% corn, 15% wheat, and 10% malted barley. The finished product is bottled at 100-proof and has been aged at least 4 years in a #3 charred American oak barrel. The non-chill filtered batches are made from 7 barrels and then cut with limestone filtered water.
Eye: Amber with aged copper tints. There are thin legs lacing the sides of the Glencairn glass. This has a lovely color and has definitely spent quality time exposed to oak.
Nose: There’s an initial hit of alcohol that dissipates quickly. Whiskey Acres Straight Bourbon was very corn forward. This, longer-aged product, has definitely matured. There is vanilla, caramel and some soft, grassy notes from the wheat and barley. A drop or two of water opens this one up, nicely, with deeper caramel and ripe apple notes.
Palate: Cereal grains burst, followed by vanilla, charred oak and spice. Again, the drop or two of water intensifies the caramel notes.
Finish: Long with caramel and spice. This one hits all the surfaces in my mouth and throat – even under my tongue – and finishes with a warm Illinois hug.
Overall: This is a solid improvement from their initial Straight Bourbon release. There’s still room to grow and evolve, but this is a solid expression from an artisan distiller. I appreciate the farm-to-bottle experience and it’s great to see a local operation putting out a quality product that continues to improve. They have produced some special selections as well as unique grain combinations. I’ll be watching to see what evolves from this Midwestern gem.