WOODSTOCK – The raw ingredients are at the ready. A distributorship agreement is signed. Gleaming distillery machinery sits waiting, and the soon-to-be producer of Wondertucky Shine is champing at the bit.
All that stands between consumers and their first sip of the locally produced, clear corn whiskey is an applied-for federal insurance bond, said David Cunningham, who has rented the distinctive masonry building at 315 E. South St., Woodstock, to work his fermentation magic.
“We have an agreement with our distributor, a letter of intent,” Cunningham said, adding that he still is open to investors to help with overhead for the start-up business.
Cunningham and members of his fledgling board are confident they’ll find them, too.
“We’re standing in the middle of a gold rush as far as craft distilleries go,” said Cunningham, 47. Even the McHenry County Convention and Visitors Bureau has expressed interest in touting the place when it’s operational, he added.
The distillery’s goal to produce seven gallons an hour for 12 hours a day and five days a week, would mean 420 gallons a week, or about 2,100 bottles, Cunningham said. Each bottle could sell for $25 and up, the Island Lake resident said.
“A craft product is higher quality,” Cunningham said. “Most products on the shelf, even a Grey Goose or a Chivas, has gone through a stripping run. They distill it to the highest proof, then dilute it with distilled water and flavor it.”
While Cunningham plans to produce a product comparable to moonshine, offering proofs of 80 to 150, he swears that all of it will taste as smooth as silk.
A former carpenter, Cunningham’s interest in the distilling and fermentation process dates back to his adolescence, when he did a project on making ethanol for a middle school science fair.
“The idea of using a plant to make a car go really fascinated me,” he said. “I read any and all books I could get my hands on regarding the chemistry behind the fermentation process.”
It later kicked into high gear when, early in his high school career, he became a hit with his peers after he figured out how to make a crude still out of his mother’s pressure cooker and some copper pipe.
“My mother, however, was not amused when she found the still hidden in my closet,” he recalled.
And while some might wonder whether Wonder Lake residents could be un-amused by Cunningham’s chosen product name, he and his early backers are decidedly unafraid.
“We’ve all heard of Wondertucky,” Cunningham said. “I just thought it was a cool name to help showcase that this is a product from here in McHenry County, using local grains – everything’s germinated here.”
Even the label is home grown, Cunningham said. McHenry graphic artist Brian Bubser created it from a photo of one of Cunningham’s longtime friends, Elgin bartender Mary DeNicolo.
And DeNicolo, for one, can’t wait for the bottles bearing her likeness to surface on area shelves.
“He wanted a sexy look with a cowboy hat, and he called me,” she said. “I was very honored. I’m a big fan of whiskey.”
For information about the Wondertucky Distillery and potential investment opportunities visit the distillery’s Facebook page, or call Cunningham at 224-678-4396.