The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2012

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Page 36 of 128

A LONE STAR LIFE The Waiting—for More Texas Bourbon—Is the Hardest Part TX BLENDED WHISKEY HELPS SOOTHE THE HEARTACHE by Anthony Head / photo by Kirk Weddle Day 1 Received package of TX Blended Whiskey from Fort Worth. The clear bottle nicely shows off the auburn liquid within. A canvas band around the bottle neck is a cool touch. Note: Keep this intact until photographer shoots the bottle for the page. Day 2 No word from photographer. However, while researching the distillery, Firestone & Robertson, I discov- ered they have a straight bourbon coming out sometime in Obama's second term that will be the real deal: Texas ingredients made in a Texas distillery. TX Blended is from Kentucky, the planetary home of bourbon, composed to whet Texans' appetite for later F&R offerings. Also, the cool canvas band fell off the bottle last night. It was an accident that occurred when I was cutting it off to try and get the handmade cork out of the bottle for inspection. Since there was no going back, I decided to taste just a sip to be more informed when interviewing the distiller. Very smooth, BTW. Day 3 Decided to have another taste while listening to Hank Williams and waiting for photographer to call back. I mused aloud how TX is structured to emphasize broad, deep flavors; and my unofficial musings were confirmed with additional sips until it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I didn't actually call the photographer in the first place. After placing that call I started thinking—What the hell!—as long as I'm here I might as well taste TX Blended Whiskey for real, on the record. So I did, and I took notes, from which I quote: "Structured to emphasize deep, broad flavors." There are also rambling, existential scribbles about how "Settin' the Woods on Fire" has got to be the "Hankiest" Hank Williams song ever. Day 4 Heard from photographer: He's available to shoot in two days. I took a celebratory sip or two of the TX and called up Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson. We discussed using Texas corn and wheat, the state's regional climate and water characteristics, and the endless waiting for the straight stuff to be ready. "Our straight bourbon will be ready in two or three years," Firestone said. It's currently resting in traditional, slow-maturing 53-gallon charred American white oak barrels (like in Kentucky), instead of the faster-maturing ten-gallon barrels that are popular with Texas distillers. Another twist: Troy said they've got their own yeast. "We captured and developed a yeast strain that originated from a pecan nut on a ranch in Glen Rose, Texas. We believe we're the first craft distillery in the country to have 36 / the tasting panel / august 2012 captured a wild yeast strain suitable for whiskey distillation since Prohibition." Day 5 Spent most of the day with the blues. Troy had estimated that yeast influences whiskey's flavor profile by, perhaps, 25 percent; he said F&R's unique yeast brings singular floral notes to their straight bourbon. I'm getting excited, sure enough, but couldn't help feeling low thinking of the bleak future that lies ahead for all the wild yeasts of Texas. (Those roundups are not a pretty sight.) I took a sip or two of TX, admired the coffee finish, and turned up the Hank Williams. Day 6 Photographer called; he has the photo concept ready for tomorrow. I must work hard, too. Late into the night, fortified by a couple sips, I created a mix CD entitled "Hank Williams: The Wild Yeast Sessions." Day 7 Noonish: Woke up; rushed bottle, notes, and mix CD to photographer. Rushed back home—where I found another package waiting!

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