It has been no secret that for the past few years Texas has seen a boom in the craft beer scene. We were a little slow to embrace the micro brews that many other states have grown to love but now that we have, Texas has some of the best micro brews in the nation. Some of which you probably already know and love. Names like St. Arnold and Shiner have a nationwide following but some others like Karbach, Silver Star, and No Label (which I profiled here) are the up and coming superstars of the Texas beer world.
What a lot of people don't know is that Texas is also having a renaissance in the micro distillery business as well. When talking about liquors, most people will tell you that the best bourbon has to come from Kentucky or Tennessee, rum from the Caribbean, gin from England, so on and so forth. While that used to be the case, it is far from the turth nowadays. Being the proud Texan that I am, I thought I would school you a little bit about some damn fine spirits coming right out of the heart of the Lone Star State.
By now everyone is familiar with Tito's Vodka made by Fifth Generation Distillers out of Austin. If you are not, then why the hell are you reading this?!?! Go try some! If you have heard their commericals then you know that it beat every vodka out there in the world championships, yes, even that one. I will tell you it's not just lip service, Tito's handmade vodka is hands down the best you will find. Running around 22 buck a litre it gets the job done at a fairly reasonable price so until some other distiller steps their game up, Tito's it is!
Now that we have the worlds most boring spirit out of the way, let's talk some liquors with complex flavors, aromas, and a little bit of style. My go to liquor of choice nowadays has got to be whisky. I am a huge fan of all of the mainstays: Crown, Makers Mark, Bulleit, Jack, I could go on for days. But my favorite Texas whisky right now is still in its infancy but has knocked their first few offerings out of the park. I am speaking, or rather typing, of Balcones Distillery. Hand crafted in Waco, Tx, which is where I spent the first 21 of my years walking the Earth, Balcones has stepped up the whisky game in short order. Voted one of the best spirits of 2010, Balcones offers up "Baby Blue" which is the first Texas whisky on the market since Prohibition. The golden amber whiskey is made from 100% roasted Hopi blue corn. With hints of corn, toasted almond, marzipan, chili, and dark chocolate it has enough intricate flavors to tickle even the most spohisticated palette. Add in a smoky finish reminicent of Islay single malt Scotch and you have a winner, winner, chiken dinner situation.
Another Lone Star libation I had the privlege to try came at the hands of a new place in Sugarland called Barrel and Brew (formerly Sam's Boat at the Fountains) which I HIGHLY recommend by the way. They pride themselves on Texas beer and whiskey and do a great job of promoting each, but I digress. While there I was informed of a Texas gin that I absolutely had to try. Now before you stop reading and skip to the next paragraph, I know what you are going to say. "I hate gin! It tastes like licking a Christmas Tree" Trust me, this gin is way different from the rotgut, bathtub gin you have probably tried. Dubbed "Waterloo Gin" by the fine folks at Treaty Oak Distillery it is one of the most complex gins I have tried. Distilled as a London Dry gin, Waterloo is flavored with juniper berries (as is all gin), lavendar, orange zest, lemon, grapefruit, anise, corriander and a whole bunch of other botanicals. What exits their stills is truly a gin to behold and to bedrink (yes, thats a word I just made up). Whether on the rocks, straight up, with tonic, or in a martini, Waterloo more than holds its own against the big boys like Citadelle, Hendricks, and Bombay.
The last spirit I have for you today comes from down south of Houston in a little city on the bay called San Leon. San Leon, unbeknownst to a lot of people unfortunately, is home to the Railean Rum Distillery . The original claim to fame for Railean was that it was the first rum distillery in America owned and operated by a woman. Their claim to fame for me is their Reserve XO rum. Made from the finest Gulf coast sugar cane and molasses, the Reserve XO boasts flavors of brown sugar oak and spice. What sets it apart, in my opinion, is the aging process. The Reserve XO is aged more like a bourbon in brand new fire charred white oak barrels. Because of this it also has notes of smoke, vanilla, and toffee. Either mixed with coke or enjoyed on the rocks the Reserve XO will make you feel like a pirate in no time.