Mad Buffalo Distilling Team

The distilling process at Mad Buffalo is a team of friends and family, but the core Mad Buffalo distilling staff are, from left, Chris Burnette, president and CEO; Matthew Schimmell and Cole Uphouse, vice president of operations. The distilling process is done at Shawnee Bend Farms and takes about 10 days to make 10-15 cases of Thunderbeast Storm Moonshine.  

Mad Buffalo Distillery officials said the inspiration for its name comes from their late mother, Judy Uphouse.

Uphouse, who died in 2004, lived on a farm southeast of Union, and decorated her home with Native American artwork, rugs and other items.

Vice President of Operations Cole Uphouse remembers when he, his sister Elise Burnette and her husband Chris Burnette, sat down to talk about what to name the family-owned company, based in Franklin County.

“Mom would be mad if we didn’t use a buffalo,” he told them.

A buffalo pendant that Cole and Elise’s mother often wore was the template for the business’ logo.

“Mom did a lot of work for Native American rights and she loved the Southwestern and Western culture,” Uphouse said.

Cole and Elise’s father, Rene Uphouse, passed away in 2011 and that’s when his family agreed to maintain Shawnee Bend Farms and begin Mad Buffalo Distillery.

The distillery recently began selling its moonshine, or corn whiskey, under the name Thunderbeast Storm Moonshine in Union, at T’s Liquor Lane. Thunderbeast also is available in several liquor stores in the St. Louis area.

Chris Burnette added that there will be, at some point, a Mad Buffalo retail location within the county. It will likely be located in the Union area.

Mad Buffalo is one of only a few distilleries in the country that uses grain grown on the same land as the location of the distillery.

The distilling is done at the Franklin County farm, and the corn is grown at Shawnee Bend Farms. The corn also is milled, malted, prepared, mashed and fermented on site at the family farm.

Burnette, who is the company president and CEO, said the bottles are made in Park Hills, and the caps are made in St. Louis.

“We want to source everything as close as possible — if we can’t do it ourselves,” he said.

Plans call for a Mad Buffalo bourbon, possibly within the next year. Burnette said American oak barrels will be made at McGinnis Wood Products in Cuba.

Once the 15-gallon barrels are made, the corn whiskey will be aged for eight to 10 months.

The distilling process is a three-man — Uphouse, Burnette and Matthew Schimmell — operation, with some help from friends and family.

The entire distilling process takes about 10 days. There are between 10-15 cases produced each time.

Plans also call for other liquors, including gin or rum, sometime in the future. There also could be small batches of blackberry or elderberry whiskey using fruits grown on the farm.

Mad Buffalo uses family recipes, including a Burnette family recipe that has been handed down for generations. Burnette comes from a long line of distillers and moonshine producers.

Cole Uphouse said a family friend once told his mother that he purchased a mounted buffalo head while in Alaska.

After several weeks, a crate arrived and waited for the family in the driveway of the farm.

Cole remembers how upset Judy Uphouse was once the crate was opened to reveal, not a buffalo, but instead a massive moose head.

“She was always mad that it wasn’t a buffalo,” he said.

More information about the distillery can be found on Facebook at