Illinois’ Largest Craft Distillery
Rochelle is a thriving community offering an experience for all tastes – from relaxation to exhilaration – all with that hometown feel. It’s a community full of small-town business owners, eclectic shops and a historic feel. As I drove through, I admired their small town main street as well as the preservation of the majority of storefronts. Following a two-year renovation of the Historical Hub Theater in the heart of the community is Illinois’s largest craft distillery – Kennay Farms Distilling.
It was the historic Hub Theater
The Distillery is located inside the historic Hub Theater. Opening its doors in 1931, the art-deco style Hub Theater boasted nearly 950 seats and ran as a first-run movie house until early 2011. When the Kennay family found out that the property was for sale, they immediately envisioned the space for their facility. The tall ceilings, art-deco style balconies, moldings, and original historic character made it the perfect space to start renovations.
Doris greeted me at the front doors and welcomed me to the distillery. As I browsed their selection of vodka, gin, and relics from the old theater and other merchandise, we talked briefly about the theater and her family. At the top of the steps I found an unexpected view--a tasting room featuring large windows that overlook the production floor. The old theater balconies and art-deco style moldings are still in place at the top corners. The exposed brick is all original and absolutely beautiful. The tasting room features a mix of vintage, modern and industrial accents. A room separated by windows and double doors is set up for events and meetings and features hand-crafted woodwork and upscale modern lighting. The Kennays have preserved touches of the theater that enable you to enjoy their renovations and experience it in a whole new way.
About the Kennays
Rick and Doris Kennay are the founders of Kennay Farms Distilling. They spent a lifetime building their family farm and instilling a love for agriculture in their children Kaleb, Aubrey, and Grace. The Kennay Family Farm is in its fifth generation of operation. It is located just outside of Rochelle in Ashton. Their family history is displayed on the production floor and dates all the way back to the 1880s. The very first plaques show that their family immigrated from Germany and traveled from New York to Illinois by covered wagon where they settled near Franklin Grove to farm and work the railroad.
Turning grain into spirits is a delicate balance of science and art. Kennay Farms Distilling brings you family-crafted spirits created from local grain that is produced, milled and distilled by members of the Kennay family. They know that superior product takes care, heart, and hard work. The house-made vodka uses corn from their farm. Their gin, with hints of coriander, lemongrass, juniper, and orange peel, is available in the tasting room and may be purchased by the bottle. The production floor also features a brewery where recipes are created for ales, lagers, stouts, and IPA's as well as premium and seasonal beers.
After my tour, I was able to sample some of the beer on tap and view the vodka/gin menu for mixed drinks. I sampled some of the best and creative beers I’ve ever had. I sampled a lavender beer that was incredible. I also sampled a few stouts, IPAs, and are you ready for this one--a waffle beer. Yup, a delicious beer that tasted just like waffles. I may or may not have taken a growler of it home--full confession, I did! The mixed drink menu features premium cocktails with names such as Cranberry Harvest, Hayride, County Line, Uncle Collin, Lone Tree, and many more. All premium drinks feature their vodka and gin. Located just behind the distillery is the Rickhouse where they hold bourbon and whiskey in barrels while they age over the next three to five years.
The logo represents the strong women of the Kennay family
Speaking of hard work, their logo features a female carrying a barrel over her head. When I asked Doris about the logo she explained the generations of strong female figures in their family. The females in their family have always worked side-by-side with the men on the farm and are important assets to the success of Kennay Farms.
Tours and Event Space
They offer VIP tours as well as event space.
VIP Tour: They offer a VIP experience the first Saturday of each month with a 60-minute tour guided by their Head Distiller, Adam Kennay. The tour begins on the production floor of the distillery with a timeline of the business and an overview of the distillation and brewing processes. The tour proceeds to the Rickhouse where they bottle the clear spirits for retail and barrel the dark spirits for 2.5-5 years. It concludes with an overview of the brewhouse and a taste of their house vodka.
Cost: $20. The tour price includes a complimentary standard beverage to enjoy on the tour AND a tasting of our house vodka.
Available: First Saturday of each month - 4:30 pm
To ensure that everyone has a safe and wonderful experience they ask that visitors pre-register for the tour following the links listed below. Walk-in guests can pay at the door as long as space is available. *Request a private group tour with a minimum of 6 guests any day by using the Event Inquiry form on the EVENTS page or calling 815-901-1512.
Kennay Farms Distilling
416 Lincoln Hwy
Rochelle, IL 61068
(815) 762 – 0307