Union may seem like an unlikely place for a distillery, but a family with local ties is looking to soon begin making liquor.
Chris Burnette, president of Mad Buffalo Brewing Company, Inc., submitted an application Sept. 30 for a federal permit to become Missouri’s newest licensed distillery.
Pending the permit, the distillery will be located at a farm off Shawneetown Ford Road that his wife Elise and Burnette’s brother-in-law William Uphouse inherited last year.
According to Burnette, plans call for a distillery that is “tied to the land.”
Mad Buffalo Brewing’s traditional recipe and process will be made from 100 percent Missouri corn, grown, milled, malted, prepared, mashed, fermented, and distilled on site at their family farm, Shawnee Bend Farms.
“It is strange for distillery to grow, make and bottle everything — it is unique,” said Burnette. “There are few places that do that. Today everything is outsourced.”
Burnette said the craft distillery operation can be compared to a winery that grows all of its grapes, and produces on site.
Shawnee Bend Farms had been owned by Rene Uphouse who passed away last year. Prior to that, the property was owned by Rene’s father-in-law who had grown crops, but also made wine for personal use at the property in the 1970s.
Burnette, who is originally from East Tennessee, said that once the federal permit is approved, the owners also must get a state permit.
After that they are required to get the distillery up and running within a couple of months.
Burnette added that the liquor-making business will be a family affair with a nine-member board of directors that is made up of friends and family.
Mad Buffalo Distillery will revisit Burnette’s roots and make an unaged white whiskey based on their family traditions from the Appalachian Mountains in East Tennessee. The spirits will be sold under the name “Thunderbeast.”
Their first product, Thunderbeast Storm Moonshine, is a modification of a family recipe handed down for generations.
Other products include a short-aged bourbon, corn whiskey and vodka.
The Mad Buffalo Distillery owners said they hope to begin production in November and will open for distillery and farm tours during the summer of 2013.
Burnette said now they are waiting to get moving on production.
“Until we get permits, we can’t get going. But we have to have a still in the building to get the permits,” Burnette said. “We have to hurry up and wait.”
He said the distillery is using a 40-foot by 60-foot building to house the stills, and there is also a barn on the property as well as an outbuilding to be used for shipping.
The company will use glass and labels produced in St. Louis, and barrels made in Cuba, Mo., with wood grown in Missouri.
“We are trying to be as local as we can,” Burnette said.
He added that the ownership group hopes to reconnect customers with the nation’s agricultural heritage and whiskey making traditions by creating a unique product that is sustainable, environmentally friendly and tastes great.
You can find more information at www.madbuffalodistillery.com.