The American humorist Mark Twain once quipped, "Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough." After a taste of the Fort Worth-distilled-and-bottled TX Blended Whiskey during a visit to The Grand Met at Grand Hyatt DFW, we were certainly inclined to agree with the famous writer. However we were pressed to apply the label of "good whiskey" to the local tipple we were enjoying with a splash of bitters and Paula's Texas Orange - not because it wasn't enjoyable, but because the compliment was simply not quite superlative enough.
"Wonderful", perhaps. "Fabulous", even. This is some wonderful whiskey.
Curiosity spurred a quick trip to a 1927 vintage warehouse just south of Fort Worth with a fine skyline view, where we meet co-founder Leonard Firestone of Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. Before one even gets down and dirty with the aging liquor, one must first experience the charming interior of the remodeled former moving company warehouse, which features plenty of industrial hardware enjoying new life as found art. Old shipping receipts decorate a wall on one side, while old floorboards provide wall-covering on another. Original interior windows were also discovered during the remodel that are now impart natural light to the inner offices. The attention to detail in the welcome space suggest that the concept of doing anything by halves is entirely foreign throughout the organization.
Leonard is a well-spoken gentleman with a quick smile and engaging manner is definitely sleeves-rolled-up involved in the day-to-day operation; ask any question and a precise, detailed response is forthcoming. The luxuriously rich fragrance of the mash envelopes as soon as we step into the distillery, crisp and cool in the winter twilight (and imaginably quite the opposite during a Texas summer) and Leonard begins to patter on about the straight bourbon that is currently being distilled in the facility, the oldest batches of which will reach the two year minimum required aging mark this spring, although the batches will be left to age over another summer (to take advantage of the fantastic Texas aging terroir) until they reach perfection - determined through periodic sampling.
There's certainly plenty of consideration and love in these bottles. The mash is a perfume-y ambrosia of Texas corn, soft red winter wheat (also grown in Texas), and malted barley (from the Midwest, where it grows much better). Mixed with that is some Texas water, and a proprietary yeast specially selected by F&R from a single pecan nut from a ranch in Somervell County, southwest of Fort Worth. One of the 500 gallon copper stills is open and letting off excess steam while another batch of mash simmers in a large pot behind. Leonard talks on about the barrels overhead that were custom-made by a cooper in Lebanon, Missouri. While straight bourbon hasn't been distilled in Texas before, early work indicates that the expansion and contraction of the barrels in the summer heat helps with the extraction of flavor, fragrance, and color from the charred barrel wood, which imparts a uniquely regional character to the liquor.
As though the whiskeys weren't unique enough on their own, F&R also creates uniquely Texas bottlecaps from scrap leathers donated by local Fort Worth boot makers and visitors to the distillery; everything from fireman's jackets to ballet slippers have topped off bottles. The caps are hand-hammered in different sizes to accommodate different thicknesses of fabric, resulting in no two bottles turning out exactly the same.
A taste of the TX Blended Whiskey can be had at the bar in the lobby, and it's a luscious, drinkable whiskey with sweet, warm top notes that melt away to a warm, woody finish. It's a smooth, drinkable whiskey that is just fine in a glass all by itself. While passion and pride don't quite impart flavor in liquor, the whiskey somehow tasted much better after learning all that had gone into it.
F&R products are currently available in Texas and Louisiana. Visit their website for more information on retailers and tours. And as always, please enjoy any adult beverage responsibly.