There’s a long list of things that can be done if you own 200 acres of farmland. Towards the bottom of that list is probably “start making alcohol,” but that’s exactly what Chris Burnette and his family have done at Mad Buffalo Distillery. With offices in St. Charles, Mad Buffalo’s production facilities are located on the family’s farm in Union, Mo., and the company is bringing a whole new meaning to craft distilling.
“We’re producing corn, barley—basically everything you need to make spirits,” says Burnette.
In fact, the farm produces exactly everything needed to make spirits, which is why Mad Buffalo will be using only their farm’s output to fuel their line of alcohols. A popular term in craft distilling, “grain to glass” is an ideological stance where a distiller buys grains, and everything else used in the production of their spirit, within 50 to 100 miles of their distillery, with the goal being to create a more sustainable, eco-friendly and localized product. Mad Buffalo has taken it one step further, creating a new term, “ground to glass,” to describe their process where all the ingredients are grown, harvested, cleaned, and used, on site to make their alcoholic wares.
“We’re focused on sustainability,” Burnette says. “It costs more, but we feel it’s worth it. We’re using non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) corn, and we’re hoping to be certified organic in the next 2 to 3 years.”
The distillery will make good use of that corn with their introductory line of spirits. Thunderbeast, will be a 100-percent corn-based lineup and will include short-aged bourbon, corn whiskey, vodka and a traditional moonshine. Named in homage to Burnette’s mother-in-law, who was an advocate for Native American rights, Mad Buffalo is even going so far as to ship the American oak from their farm to Cuba, Mo., where they’ll be made into barrels for storing the company’s bourbon and other aged spirits.
With production set to begin by the end of summer, Burnette, an environmental attorney-cum-distiller, is excited to bring the company’s brand of sustainable and socially accountable spirits to the market—not that everything has always been completely responsible.
“I’m originally from eastern Tennessee, where my family’s been distilling for over 200 years,” Burnette says about his background. “My great uncle went to prison for bootlegging.”
Mad Buffalo Distillery, Office: 307 N 5th Street, St. Charles; Distillery: Shawnee Bend Farms, 7616 Shawneetown Spur, Union, Mo., madbuffalobrewingcompany.com