I recently toured Houston's first distillery and sampled some locally made spirits! Yellow Rose Distilling launched in 2012 and produces 4 kinds of whiskey and a vodka (plus a few other fun things in limited quantities). They are available for sale in Texas and 9 other states. Tours and tastings are offered every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and are a fun way to spend an evening. The tours are relaxed and informative with a tasting afterwards, and there's a comfortable bar to relax in before and after the tour.
Yellow Rose's whiskeys are made from organic Texas corn with rye and barley from a variety of sources. This is the food-grade grain storage room...
The fermentation takes place in open-topped tanks, then the result is distilled in this pot still.
After distillation, the whiskey is clear (and strong!).
By law, the whiskey must be aged in new American oak. You can see the charring on the inside of the barrels. The oak aging contributes color and flavor.
We visited the bottling line...
Then on to tasting!
Yellow Rose produces Blended Whiskey, Outlaw Bourbon, Straight Rye Whiskey, and Double Barrel Bourbon Whiskey. As a wine person, the Double Barrel was the most interesting to me. To make Double Barrel, they age the bourbon a second time in barrels that have been used for Cabernet Sauvignon. This adds red wine aroma to the whiskey and fruitiness to the taste. These are the Cabernet barrels in action:
Yellow Rose also does some fun things with maple syrup. First, they send their used whiskey barrels to Vermont, where a maple syrup producer ages his maple syrup in them. The syrup takes on a whiskey flavor without any alcohol. (Yellow Rose sells this maple syrup in their tasting room.) Then, after the syrup has been bottled, those same barrels are sent back to Yellow Rose, where they are filled once again with Straight Rye Whiskey. The end result - Maple Rye - is a delicious, maple-flavored whiskey.
I'm excited that Houston has its own distillery, and I highly recommend that you take a tour. You'll have fun and taste some great Houston whiskey.