Ep. 18 - Robert Likarish of Ironroot Republic Distillery

TEXAS WHISKEY // How a grape man drew two brothers into the distilling business.

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Show Notes

This interview pairs nicely with the Whiskey Lore Story Episode: Phylloxera's Effect on Scotch, Cognac, and Texas Whiskey

The whiskey tasted during this interview was provided by Ironroot Republic. Opinions are my own.

A true family business, Robert, his brother Jonathan, and their mother Marcia run all of the operations at the distillery - and if you think this is the typical family ascent into the whiskey industry - featuring years of background making spirits - you would be mistaken. Robert was a law student and Jonathan was an engineer.

One of their inspirations - in fact the namesake of the distillery is TV Ironroot Munson, also known as the grape man of Texas and the man who saved Cognac from a dreaded aphid. You can hear that whole story in the Phylloxera episode in Season 3 of Whiskey Lore, and we will talk a bit about the man here in this episode.

We'll also talk about their fascination with terroir, the types of corn they use, and the influnce Cognac and Armanac have had on them. The more I asked questions, the more fascinating the discussion became.

 In this interview we discuss:

  • Why Denison?
  • The French style of working with spirits
  • Terroir, Provenance, and Elevage
  • Working with local corn varietals
  • Tasting a Bloody Butcher Corn
  • Chill-filtering and mouthfeel
  • The Texas funk and distillery character
  • Handling an intense environment
  • Finishing casks
  • European oak in Texas and tannins
  • Harbinger the name
  • Naming the still
  • Choosing the right char level for a barrel
  • Kentucky bourbon vs Texas bourbon
  • The oddballs
  • The experiments and tasting a green Oaxacan corn
  • Whiskey slows you down
  • Robert and Jonathan's background
  • Visiting Huber's Starlight and touring Kentucky and Tennessee
  • Winning awards and the impact
  • The French and European relationship with American whiskey
  • The story behind Texas Legation and Berry Bros.
  • Breakfast burrito in England
  • Pot still from Vendome
  • How mom got involved
  • How they choose barrels for bottling
  • Tracking your progress and always making something better
  • Creating a core profile
  • Longer fermentation for more esthers
  • Philosophy on yeast
  • Scorching a whiskey
  • Speaking of peated whiskies, Icarus tasting
  • Bottle shape (shoo fly flask)
  • That blue cheese note
  • Scotch vs bourbon and the American whiskey movement
  • Tasting an Ironroot Irish style whiskey
  • Tasting an Ironroot 6 year old Texas Bourbon unicorn
  • Drinking a high proof whiskey and off the still
  • The wild west of Texas whiskey
  • The beauty of tradition, but the fun of experimentation

Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on Spotify, Apple or your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript and resources talked about in this episode are available on the tab(s) above.

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Drew (00:00:15):
Welcome to Whiskey Lore, the interviews. I'm your host, drew Hennish, the Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey Lores Travel Guide to Experience in Kentucky Bourbon. And I want to welcome you to an encore interview from back in March of 2020 in Denison, Texas with Iron Root Republic's co-founder Robert Licorice. Now this is a true family business. Robert, his brother Jonathan and their mother Marsha, run all of the operations at the distillery. And if you think this is the typical family ascent into the whiskey industry with years of background in making spirits, well, you would be mistaken. Robert was a law student and Jonathan was an engineer. Now one of their inspirations for starting the distillery is actually the namesake for the distillery tv Iron Root Munson, who is also known as the Great Man of Texas. And he's a man who saved cognac from a dreaded aphid.

And if you want to hear the entire story of the ER epidemic, you can hear that in season three of whiskey lore. We're going to talk a little bit about TV Munson in this particular interview. We're also going to talk about Robert and Jonathan's fascination with terroir. We'll talk about the types of corn they use and the influence that cognac and armak have had on their process. And the more I ask questions, the more fascinating this discussion became. Now what I'm going to tell you in the interest of full disclosure is I'm a little bit hoarse in this interview and the reason is that my mother had passed away just one day before. So to say that my body was not in tiptop shape is an understatement, but the show must go on and I'm really glad I got a chance to meet Robert and talk about his passion for whiskey.

It rubs off on me. I love engaging with people who are so passionate about what they do. So as we move into the boardroom at Iron Root Republic, we both sat down and I was greeted by some lovely drams sitting in front of me, some that I will be tasting in this episode to give you kind of an idea of my experience with these whiskeys. So let's get right into this conversation. Here's my interview with Robert Licorice of Iron Root Republic. I think the first thing that I would want to know is how you came across the story of TV Munson. Are you from this area originally or? No,

Robert (00:02:58):
We're not originally from the area, but I went to undergrad at Austin College, which is over in Sherman, Texas. And I was there, we had to do, I was part of the leadership program there and we had to do research basically on Teo. And that was one of the stories that came up and it was really like, and so I didn't really dive deep into it, but we got into again, why the Grayson College has a viticulture school and why they have a vineyard there and everything. And so I knew that he was important. It was kind of a really kind of cool story, but it wasn't until we actually were decide we were going to set down roots and start actually building a distillery and coming back to Texas to do it, that I got a phone call from one of my professors and was like, if you're doing this, you need to come out here and check this out.

And for us, the moment that we got here was kind of the perfect moment because really going to the school, talking to the professors, talking to several of his descendants in town and talking about our background and what the way we had been taught to make spirits and that connection to cognac, it was kind of like the right place for us to be and it felt like this was the place that we should be. And that's kind of how we ended up in Denison because people ask us all the time, why Denison of all the places? And it was, yeah, because of the connection to cognac and that that's what intrigued us from the very beginning.

Drew (00:04:24):
So when did the name of the distillery pop into your head?

Robert (00:04:28):
So that it was actually, so the original name we were working on for the distillery was going to be Red River Republic, was the way we were going to go with it. And there was just something that, it just felt almost a little too generic. There's a lot of things that named Red River up here and we wanted to tie it again, tie it back into us and into the city of where we're coming from and all those things are what made sense to us and that's why we decided to do it in honor of tv Munson on that end.

Drew (00:05:00):
So was the connection to France and the French wine industry and the processes, did that come out of the name and the area or were you already kind of there and then the name and area just fit with it? We

Robert (00:05:18):
Were already there, so we'd actually gone and I'd taken Nancy Fraley year, years and years ago and she, Ian was taught by er, Jermaine and kind of the one she started talking about again the approach to maturation of spirits and really a focus on that because everything in my education on spirits up until then was again just strictly production. Then you stick it in a barrel and then you pull it out two, three years later. And actually the focus of trying to guide spirits and trying to, and how ingrained she was in that, it really intrigued me. And so next thing you know, we're out meeting with ER and taking class from him and watching him distill and being there when he's making cuts off Distill and talking about Philosoph, he's definitely kind of a poet. He's very much a philosopher distiller, which has always been something that's really intriguing to me that the he's, I mean his family has deep roots in France.

He was obviously a master distill over there and then his family before him and then they ended up, he sold the brand to Martel and then moved over here over to California and brought us still with him and started distilling French or the non-traditional grapes to make brandies. And so, I dunno, he's just talking with him and again, being dragged into more of that French, the approach to things. And there's so much thought behind every single step in the way that they do things that Jonathan and I jumped head deep into that style and that way of doing things. And then coming from that, that's when we were looking at cities to put the distillery in. And when we saw the history of Denison and that light bulb from what I'd learned back, the school clicked back on, we're like, Nope, that's where we're going. It doesn't matter about anything else. This is the city.

Drew (00:07:12):
So it sounds more like art than a business.

Robert (00:07:17):
I mean it's as silly and crazy as that is. And I think you have to be a little bit of both to start a distillery to begin with. Yeah, it's definitely was kind of the artistic notion of that. It made sense.

Drew (00:07:30):
So what intrigued you about TV Munson when you first heard the story?

Robert (00:07:38):
All the things around the little anecdotes that you hear from all the different places. And every time the story is told that again, he was a little bit more of an eccentric of the brothers. Again, when you talk with the family, the other ones were very much business focused here with the railroad and everything making money here. And he was the brother that was researching at agriculture and trying to figure out how to grow grapes, improve American grape varieties. And again, he was the old bald brother, which is kind of just an endearing thing. And then that he was working with the US Department of Agriculture and he was sending all these papers to the Smithsonian and other places about grapes and the grapes from the region and the US and that the Smithsonian didn't really know what to do with all these papers on grapes because no one really cared all that much about American grape varieties.

And when the French came looking that they ended up helping get him in touch with this guy in Dennis in Texas that was right, these things on grapes that they didn't really care about. And it's just kind of all these coincidences and he was in the right place, the right kind of crazy person at the right time with the right grapes that were growing in limestone rich soils that could handle the pH and everything that the French were dealing with. It was the solution. And again, it's one of those things that happenstance we were talking about earlier that just with everything that we've kind of run into as we were starting up and as we're going, just kind of feels like it's almost fate in some way. And I feel like again, sometimes when you're not pushing back against things and just going with where the universe has taken us, it's just everything's made sense. And it, that story was really endearing to me just seeing how he was the right person in the right place.

Drew (00:09:24):
So I think what's interesting is that he isn't from here. No. And now he ended up here with his brothers and you guys weren't here, but you ended up here with your family, which

Robert (00:09:38):
Is, I mean, it's crazy. We lived in Texas. I mean, my brother was born in El Paso and we've lived all over Texas, but ironically he was from Illinois. And I went to law school in St. Louis, but was living in Illinois when I came here. So again, it's kind of the crazy history that you see people from Illinois coming back here to do crazy things in Denison.

Drew (00:09:59):
So he was obsessed with grapes.

Robert (00:10:02):
Oh, grapes, plums. I mean, he did a book on trees for the US Department of Agriculture. I mean, he did all sorts of crazy stuff in the agriculture. Then he was a free thinker too, and did a whole bunch of, again, he was an out there guy with a lot of interest in a lot of places. But grapes and fruit production was definitely his what got him up in the morning for

Drew (00:10:26):
Sure. Yeah. Did he end up ever going over to France or was it more the, they discovered the root stock and then from there they kind of took it, or

Robert (00:10:40):
I haven't seen any photos of him in France. I know, I think it was 1888 if my memory serve me correctly, when he was awarded the medal, when we were over in cognac working with one of the historians at Mesan Farran, we went back and we couldn't find any photos of him actually in France. So my gut is feelings that they came here or they sent us stuff here to do it.

Drew (00:11:09):
Okay. And so it wasn't actually a route from here?

Robert (00:11:14):
No, it's from south of here. Okay. So down near Temple, Texas, I think it's Bell County down there I think is where it's at. Just the hill country of Texas is very much, it has more limestone rich soils. We're up here. Again, he loved the soil up here along the Red River because the Red River before we had Texoma would flood every year. So we have a lot of sandy or soil and some really interesting where if you go halfway down the county and farther south to get to this blackland prairie and clay soil, that's not great for growing things. But right up here along the river, there's actually some really great grape growing, not necessarily, it wasn't the grape that he's famous for finding to use for the hybrid for the French, but actually some stuff that he did for some sandy or soil locales came from more this region.

Drew (00:12:07):
So the story as I understand it is that somehow, somewhere along the way, this aphid ended up in England and then worked its way down into France. And the problem being that their plants, their grape vines had never seen this before and had no natural defense against it. Yeah,

Robert (00:12:37):
It's kind of small, almost like smallpox. Anyway, you had no natural defense against a predator against a disease. And that's what these aphids were. They were disease and a blight. And again, they originally didn't even know really what was going on. They thought that again, I think, what was it that when I was in France, they were saying they thought it was some sort of consumption that was just attacking the plants. They didn't really know what was causing it initially. And from my understanding was that they were bringing over to England to Europe, they'd brought over some American plants. And because the aphids are small and with the invention of steam engines, the travel between the continents was faster so that now the plants and the aphids could survive the trip over. And that's what allowed it to really take hold during that period of time.

Drew (00:13:28):
Yeah, it reminds me of the lionfish, the lionfish being brought over from Japan and then all of a sudden there's no predator for them and they're growing like crazy. Or on the east coast of the United States, we have stink bugs all over the place and they came in on a ship from Japan and they're everywhere.

Robert (00:13:47):
You can't get rid of 'em.

Drew (00:13:48):
Yeah. And they're not pleasant, so that's tough. So do you understand, and can you describe basically what he did, what his method was for solving this issue?

Robert (00:14:06):
So he had taken some theories that, again, because there was bunch of, they, I mean were trying everything at the time. There was stories of people like putting special frogs below and trying or releasing chickens into the fields to try to eat the bugs and stuff. But nothing they were doing was working. And so they had a theory that because the roots were really where there was the issues that they couldn't treat the roots to prevent it, that they would try to, maybe another species of root would work, that would be what the solution would be. And so Munson really focused in what is the soil conditions for the region. And for him, he theorized that if the conditions were similar, then the plants would be more compatible. And so that's how he went through and found down in south Texas that in that limestone rich, that because the plants have to be able to handle certain pH levels and stuff like that. And that's where he found the grave vines that were suitable for compatibility with the French grapes. And I mean, he later did stuff to try to help the guys out in California as well. And I mean obviously California went through its own ups and downs over the years of Spanish and French grapes and everything. But that was what he really focused on. That was his ideas of the focus on soil content.

Drew (00:15:32):
So the French of course are not a big fan of American grapes. No.

Robert (00:15:38):

Drew (00:15:39):
The real challenge then is also trying to do this without changing the nature of the grape, right. Because there were different theories that they were coming up with that would change the nature. Yeah.

Robert (00:15:57):
Hybridizing the grapes. Yeah, it would change the fruit that's produced. And that was the whole issue is that they wanted the fruit to stay the same and the only way to do that was to graft. And again, I mean still think there are probably some differences, but I mean it is interesting to taste some of the pre cognacs and stuff like that, but it's really tough to make a comparison because obviously what they were doing in 1850 versus now, it there's all, there's so many differences what's going on? Not to mention two wars and soil content change on it and everything, but it is really interesting. So I'd say that it did probably change their grapes in some ways, but I think it was the least impactful on the grape.

Drew (00:16:51):
I think the way I've heard it described is that if they chose not to do this, there wouldn't be any grapes there any

Robert (00:16:58):
Anyway. Right. Yeah. That was the choice. And mostly American grape varietals, just wine and they were not picked over for making wine.

Drew (00:17:12):
Well, in talking about changing the nature of things after traveling to so many different distilleries, especially when you're in Scotland and they talk about the pot still and how it's designed and how if it has a dent in it, we have to rebuild the new one and put a dent in the exact same spot.

Robert (00:17:30):
Oh man.

Drew (00:17:31):
Mean we can complain about the French being maybe a little bit too picky about their wines, but in the end, we all have that,

Robert (00:17:41):
We like things the way they are and we don't want to change it.

Drew (00:17:45):
But you guys are more on an experimental side. You are doing things that, a couple of things that you're doing in terms of the way they do things with French wine that you've kind of incorporated in. And there's terminology that when I'm reading your website, it's the first whiskey website I've been to that had the word elevage on it and had terroir. I've heard the terms occasionally in whiskey, but we tend to probably not pay as much attention or we generalize on those things.

Robert (00:18:22):
And I mean the term terroir is definitely going to be a controversial one when it comes to whiskey. And I think it depends on the way that you're approaching it and really what you believe, what your thoughts are on it. I mean, grain in general traditionally has been a commodity commodity. So we weren't segregating out different farms and by the soil types and really tracking those things. The crops all got dumped together and then they were sold off. And so being able to track stuff back to certain farms and certain thing. So teon, the notion and the way that the French, French wine and the way they approach it isn't really something that's done. You can look at Waterford up in Ireland. They're really taking it to a whole level to that. I would say that's kind of the French level. For us, it was more of a focus on locally grown product and to the soil conditions are different, growing conditions are different.

So what results, and even with product that's going to be new plants every year where it's not the same plants, you're still going to get differences in development of sugars, different protein levels, stuff different from year to year, but also from region to region. And so I even having distilled some of the different corns from different regions year after year, you can really start seeing that there are subtle, a little bit different differences between the two. So for us, we ended up, again, we wanted to focus on that local aspect because of again, that connection to France that we haven't kind of got beat into us that a spirit really should take on the character and the flavor of its region and that that's what it should go for. And that's really beautiful about spirits is that they do reflect in some way a place that they come from.

Now is that going to be exactly the way it's done in wine? No, I would say even talking with all the cognac distillers, when you ask them what tewa means, one of the three pillars of that was people, like the people are the ones who really impact what that, and that's going to be different than what you would see when it comes to wine. So again, so you'll see some people prefer the term provenance versus ter, but it's again, it's always a fun debate that you get to have in the spirits world, especially right now. Yeah,

Drew (00:20:48):
We kind of hear it's grained to glass, but that's really not even specific enough in saying that we're talking about a region, we're talking about making sure that you're coming from the local E economy. Exactly.

Robert (00:21:04):
Part of that too is again, fueling the local economy that you want our, and I think it's great that we're able to support our local farmers and maintain a agriculture here. I think that's one thing that with the way agriculture is done in the US that it, it's, it's way more centralized than it ever was before. And I think keeping agriculture in local areas, in different areas of the country I think is really important. Something that I really take a lot of pride in. But for us, I mean we also we're, as you said, we're experimental. So that's why about 95% of the grain that we use comes within 60 miles. So we'll always testing and trying new things. We're always working with different breeders on developing new varietals, going back and looking for ancient varietals again, we've got some green oaxacan corn here. Again, Texas being was used to be part of Mexico.

And so for us, that's why when people asked said, why did you dig into corn? Why was corn really the first thing? And we've made, we've got great branded, we've got a bunch of things that we make, but why did we dig into corn and heirloom corns? And that's because Mexico and this part of the world, this is where corn came from. And so for us, we wanted to dive into the diversity of it because it was something we weren't seeing a whole lot of. You had kind of few distilleries that were starting to play around with it. Balcones and Waco did a phenomenal job with the blue corn. That was the first time that when I tasted a whiskey, I was like, oh wow, this is something that's really different. And it's because again, you back again. If we fast backtrack to 2005, that kind of time period when you heard different, the Kentucky distillers talking about it, their commentary on corn is it's all the same and it's very much not the same. Yeah, there's some that can be really drastically different from each other. And again, we'll taste through a couple, I'll show you some different varieties that are kind of highlighted with what we do. So

Drew (00:23:02):
What is this area known for in terms of corn breeds? I guess we would call them

Robert (00:23:08):
Corn breeds. There were some traditional ones that were working on getting brought back here. So you started seeing kind of a variety done. So you start seeing a lot more of the red corn start develop here and then got taken over to Appalachia and really got focused in, so like bloody butcher corn and stuff started popping up, which again is a really fun varietal and again, say a varietal, there's multiple strains of bloody butcher. I mean if you really want to get deep into it, there's probably around 10,000 different species of corn and there's new ones being created every year from guys just playing around trying different flints and different dent corn mixes to people like Monsanto that are doing big stuff, which that's not as much of an interest to me as that. I'm more a little bit more playful on where we're getting seed corn from and where we're, we're trying to achieve with what we're doing. Yeah,

Drew (00:24:06):
That's interesting. Yeah. I've bumped into bloody butcher corn a bit through Kentucky.

Robert (00:24:10):
Yeah. JTA creed up there.

Drew (00:24:12):
Yep. JTA

Robert (00:24:12):
Creed. So that's going to be really exciting since you've tasted theirs. Yeah. I want, the very first thing I want to pour you is some bloody butcher corn if you're ready to dive in. Sure. Let's do it. A little heavy hitter here.

Drew (00:24:26):
Dr. Drink and talk. Yeah,

Robert (00:24:29):
So the ones I've pulled, I pulled the same barrel type same, and the only difference to 'em is the corn variety. So okay. You're going to be high proofs obviously, so there's water if you want. Okay. Spit cup or dump cup too, so you don't feel like you need to very good consume everything I'm going to give them for you. So this is our bloody butcher. Okay. So it'll be interesting to see what you think of the bloody butcher grown in Texas versus the one up in Kentucky. And as everything, it's all this one's 129 proof. Wow.

Drew (00:25:06):

Robert (00:25:06):
Starting out a little hot and heavy. So you may want to add some

Drew (00:25:09):
Or two. Well, I was going to say, the thing is that when I tasted theirs, I think we were probably in the 90 proof range. So this one I'm expecting a bit more of a jump on the flavors, plus talking about your technique of making whiskey and the fact that you're using a pot still and with the pot still that you're using, you have a line arm on that pot still that is slanted down, which tends to cause more of your oils and such to come in. So everybody has a theory on oils and whether we should do chill filtering, not do chill filtering, whether oils are or where the flavors at or the oil's not, where the flavor's at mouth feel. What's your reasoning for having the oils in there?

Robert (00:26:02):
So for us, I think number one is going to be mouth feel. I definitely can tell you, especially at higher proof, it definitely impacts the mouth feel versus Megan versus something that has a upward facing line arm or even columns column distillation. There's going to be a little bit more mouth field. But for us, I've found that at higher proof, it's a little bit softer of a spirit seems to in some way. And when we've run the same mash bells at different places with different stills, it seems to soften the spirit a little bit more than what you would typically expect. And now again, we're jumping right into 129 proofs, right? We'll see how much that holds true. But for me, typically what I find is that it's going to help out quite a bit with that. For me, one of our big theories and one of our big focuses on production is amplifying Esther, Esther creation. So from everything that we're doing from temperatures that we're fermenting it to yeast styles that we're using to even how we're running the condenser water to encourage some stratification, transesterification, even in the condenser before we even get to the barrels and everything else like that, everything in that we're trying to do is trying to amp up Esther production in Esther formation.

Drew (00:27:25):
And when I smell it, there's a little bit of that, what I call that Texas, I call it the Texas funk. Yeah. It's an interesting note that I don't get in any other whiskeys. I I've had that with Japanese whiskey. There's a note in a lot of Japanese whiskeys that I don't smell in anything else. It's like a commonality between

Robert (00:27:48):
Which to me that's something that I love. And I think that to me, it's one thing I love distillery character. I love when distillery does something that establishes flavor. When you smell or taste, you're like, oh, that's a Alcon's project, or that's a Glen Rothes or that's a Macallan. It's when you have that distillery character, to me that speaks very highly of the team that's making the product at that site. But two, also when you're talking about when there's a regionality similarity, there's something there. And to me, again, we're talking about provenance, we're talking about ter, all that. To me, that speaks to that. That's something that comes from that place. And that's, again, when we're talking about poet and and beauty of what spirits are, I think that's one of the beautiful things

Drew (00:28:37):
That's really interesting. There are the word that comes to mind sometimes when I taste a whiskey, I will try to just find one word to define it. And that one is rich. I mean it has nice body to it. Coming from the oils mouth feels big to me because I can have a nice tasting whiskey that that's just light in body and it just slides down my throat too fast. It's, it's like there's no time to really enjoy it. And when you get something that has a nice, almost milky kind of consistency to it, it's sits with you. It, yeah. I tell people it's part of the experience and it's part of the reason why I don't put ice in whiskey unless it's just a harsher whiskey. I'll sit with some bourbons and it's just better on a hot day to throw some ice in the glass and enjoy a bourbon that way.

But I tend to want to buy less of those kinds of bottles and buy of the bottles of the stuff that when I put it in my mouth and I sit there with it for a second, I really pull, it makes me want to investigate it and figure out, wow, that's a flavor I'm not used to. What is that? Where does that come from? So this is very refined to me. It does have, on the nose, I pick up a little bit of the, I want to say it's the ethanol, but I know ethanol doesn't really necessarily have that much of a flavor or scent to it.

Robert (00:30:15):
You can feel like you smell that. Yeah. It's like the alcohol's coming out of the glass a little bit more. And I think one Glen Karens are going to amplify that because that's what they're designed to do. They're going to concentrate that. But when you're playing with 129 proof, yeah, you're, you're going to be experiencing that one way or another. But I, for us, and again, that's what I think the beauty of some craft distilleries they've been coming out with that are experimenting with these much longer fermentation periods or doing a malac fermentation on the back end where you can create a little bit more of that creaminess, a little bit more of that. Again, things that are going to amplify that mouth feel at the end of the day. And that's a lot of, again, when you're talking about new techniques or different ideas of approaches, I think that's something that's really cool.

Cause again, typically something that has a lot of mouth field typically is an indication of age and length in cask and concentration in cask. And for us, again, Texas is an unforgiving environment for aging spirits. And that's been, I, I think the biggest thing and why we really dug into some of the French maturation styles is to how do you handle an intense environment for aging product? Because again, it can, a lot of people, when we talk about color with whiskey joke that get you the color in Texas in six weeks, that's all you need if that's what you're looking for,

Drew (00:31:36):
Right? Yeah. There's this whole move into doing, finishing and switching to a different barrel to maybe work on characteristics. Have you done much with that is Yeah,

Robert (00:31:48):
We've got a bunch of finishing casts and back when we'll wander back there, we'll talk, we can talk and taste a little bit more of some of the finishing products that we're working on and doing. But to me, again, that's when you look at some of the French traditional styles of how they do maturation, where they're going to be starting in newer casks, and as that spirit ages, they're going to move into older and older casts because they want less oak, less tannin, and they want those to soften over time. For us, with bourbon, you can't do that. And so for us is how do we take that concept? Because for me, one of the things we notice on, because Texas whiskey is only 10 years old, 11 years old now Balcon and Garrison first distill. So it's still a wild west of everyone trying to figure out what to do.

But a heavy raw tannin from young whiskey, that was something that was really apparent early on in Texas whiskey. And so some of our Texas kirkpatrick's say that we're more wood averse than they are, but I like to try to lighter a little bit lighter hand on the tannin side. So how in such an aggressive environment do you achieve that? Or how do you soften the tannins? And so for us, that's one again, employing the elevage where we're tasting through all the barrels in the warehouse every three to four months, and we're keeping really diligent notes of what's the tannin level, how's the spice profile developing, and what's the overall flavor profile of that barrel. So one, when you're doing blends, man, if we need a little sweeter more caramel barrel, we know where to go or more spice, more structure, we can really dial in when we're coming to the blending side of things.

But for us, we, we'll actually look at barrels and we'll move 'em from the outside of the warehouse more towards the standard where it's a little bit more calm or one our big things. I actually will change proof in cask, we'll actually will from higher proof, we'll actually, if we're pulling too much tannin, too much phenol into to the whiskey, we'll actually drop proof in cask and we will, by doing that, we can encourage that barrel to extract more wood sugars or more softer notes and give those tannins a little bit more time to soften. Yeah. That's also why we've, a few years ago made the decision to move from 53 gallon barrels to now we use, our standard size is 63 gallons, so a little bit larger. Again, it's getting slow down that tannin extraction helps out a little bit more with the angel share and just playing around with some of those things.

Drew (00:34:16):
Are you doing European oak on those larger ones or are you doing American Oak on?

Robert (00:34:20):
We do both. So I think one of the fun things that you see in Texas, we do employ quite a bit of European oak down here. Balcones does it quite a bit. About 30% of our barrels are going to be a Slovenian oak. We have some French oak again, we're always, again, one, you're always playing, you're always toying with things. But European oak became huge part of our profile from the very beginning. So the harbinger line, again, typically 30 to 40% of a blends going to be European oak that goes into those whiskeys.

Drew (00:34:52):
So you're not really, well, it's a straight bourbon. So are you working off of a particular mash bill for this? Or when you say blend, you're, you're talking about marrying Yeah,

Robert (00:35:02):
Mar like marrying cats. Yeah. Yeah. So we've, we've got four core mash bills that we do. One's going to be the bloody butcher, one's going to be the purple corn. We also have a flint corn called Flo. And then we also have a traditional low rye. And so our core lineup is going to be made of mixes. Of those different ones, the harbinger tends to be more bloody butcher, more purple corn focus. Okay. Promethean will be more flint corn, more the low rye focus. They all have all of them in 'em, but they're going to be focused kind of in two different directions.

Drew (00:35:36):
Where's the name Harbinger come from?

Robert (00:35:38):
Harbinger. So we have a very kind of dark sense of humor, especially my brother who's the one who names everything, almost everything. He hasn't named everything but almost everything. It's like he named our still Jim Bowie. And his joke was because it came from Kentucky and hopefully it's going to die in Texas. So

Drew (00:35:56):
Well for you Alamo fans out there, the

Robert (00:35:58):
Alamo jokes around here. So

Drew (00:36:02):
Har that this is why you're not in San Antonio. Exactly.

Robert (00:36:06):
A little more sensitive to it down there. But Harbinger was, obviously, it's foreboding, but it was the very first whiskey we ever released was Harbinger. So it was kind of foreshadowing of where we're going, what we're trying to do, and again, starting to showcase mixes of different heirloom corns, not just singular heirloom corns. Now, again, what I'm letting you taste now with the single versions. Yeah. Cause you've already had a blend, but to me that was really fun to start showing not only just singular heirloom corns, but what you can do when you take those and start playing with them together.

Drew (00:36:38):
What would you say the age on this one is?

Robert (00:36:41):
That's 31 months. Okay.

Drew (00:36:43):

Robert (00:36:43):
Say it's on the back.

Drew (00:36:44):
Yeah. Yeah. It's really interesting because I don't think, there are a lot of distilleries I've been to where it's just throw it in the warehouse and wherever you put it in the warehouse, that's about the most decision you're going to make on it, depending on how big your warehouse or small your warehouse is. So where did this fascination with trying to figure out how to age a whiskey in Texas? What was driving you inside to say, man, we really need to pay attention to this?

Robert (00:37:18):
It was tasting some of the guys that came before us and seeing things in their whiskey and tasting similar age product coming out of Kentucky and just seeing how drastically different they were, even if they were same mash bell, same style of production, just how drastically different they were. Even taking a Kentucky whiskey and aging it in Texas and what that was doing. And once we were in my kind of early studies digging into French style and how they're managing tannin because French oak is explosive with tannin. Yeah. And the approach to that, it was one of those things that just seemed like a natural fit to the environment that we're in, that we, the worries are the same for different reasons and it's to kind of take that approach now. They don't taste everything every three to four months, or last year down in Armac, I ran into one gentleman who asked him how often he tasted, and he said, every barrel, every day. I said, that might be a little much for me. Yeah. But again, I don't know how his livers still hang out together

Drew (00:38:22):
There, happy man and his job.

Robert (00:38:24):
Exactly. But typically in cognac, they're going to be doing it once a year where they're really, and they'll be again, starting to work on slow reduction and everything with that. So things, again, because of the temperatures, the oak moves at much faster rate here. And so that was something that if something we wanted to make sure we stayed on top of. And if you, again, it's one of those things, if you raise it right, you can really do some really fun stuff with maturity. Now, a lot of people early on, the rumor coming out of Texas is that, oh, you really can't age anything longer, two to three years. And once you do that, it's oak water after that. And if you really focus on barrels and you really pay attention to what they're telling you, you can really do some fun things. So one of the last things I have on the table is actually some six-year-old. Okay,

Drew (00:39:15):
I'm for you to try. Oh,

Robert (00:39:15):
Nice. So just kind of show you. Now again, there is definitely oak on it, but it's not going to be just a stick that you would think that it would be. There's some really beautiful things you can do if you treat the barrels, if you coddled them a little bit. Yeah. You can do some fun stuff.

Drew (00:39:32):
So the other thing about barrels is the charring. And a lot of times in Kentucky you'll find a lot of places are doing a number four char, which is a very heavy char or they'll jump back to a three in some places. The whole concept of charring barrels in Texas, is there a theory on a better way to, is a for good idea in Texas, or does it potentially cause more oak interaction that you want at tame back a little bit? It

Robert (00:40:08):
Depends on who you talk to. Okay. Yeah. I would say it's so early on that a lot of these things I don't think are really going to be truly fleshed out for another 50, 60, maybe a hundred years. I can tell you what our philosophy is. We, unlike most guys, we have moved away from the char three and char four, where we do occasionally still have barrels at that high of a char, but the vast majority of what we do is going to be char one and some sort of heavy toast. Okay. That's down the barrels because you still want to get that caramelization of the sugars. But we found, at least here in our warehouse and in our opinion, that the higher chars, because it's basically just a big carbon filter on the inside of that barrel. And we found that the barrels that had the higher char actually had less mouth fill and they were not quite as flavorful. Now I'd say I've seen, honestly, I've seen different things in different warehouses, but can tell you just from our experience and what we've dealt with here side by sides on lots of experimental barrels, that for us, that we found that it really took away from the mouth filled and the overall flavor of the spirit. And so again, 95, 90 6% of what we do is char one, some sort of heavy toast. Okay.

Drew (00:41:28):
Yeah. I often wonder about that because of course in going between Scotland and Kentucky, the philosophies have to be different because you're talking about very slight temperature variations in a scotch whiskey, dun warehouse that's only three barrels high versus going to Kentucky where your barrels up on the seventh floor are getting scorched up there while the ones down at the bottom are sitting in sort of a damp, semi cool. But it can get hot in the summertime in and out kind of a thing. So that creates a challenge because you really couldn't move from one area to the other and take your lessons a hundred percent with

Robert (00:42:15):
You. Yeah. I think expecting things to be exactly the same is always a mistake. When you're doing that thing, you can't ever recreate something exactly the same, somewhere very different than that. It doesn't work that way as much as you may want it to it you can't recreate Kentucky bourbon in Texas. And I think that's what a lot of people, when they went into it, that's what they were expecting. They expect when they see the word bourbon, they expect it to taste like Midwestern, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana style spirit. And it's a whole different beast. And I think you'll see that there is a kind of, and it's not with everybody, it's not every distillery, but you will see there is an intensity of flavor differential at certain ages and from Kentucky to Texas that you're going to see a lot of intensity coming from. I dunno if that's the people or just it's the conditions, but for sure. Well,

Drew (00:43:14):
It's one of those interesting dichotomies between you having being in Texas and you think Texas and you think rough and ready, and then all of a sudden here you're using French wine techniques. It's quite a contrast between the two. So

Robert (00:43:35):
We are the oddballs if Dan Garrison, I think is the epitome of Rough and Ready Texan. And I think it's fun because it's so much his whiskey too. Again, when we were talking again, the French talking about the people as part of the tur, if you go to Garrison Brothers, it's definitely part of the tur. Dan Garrison is everything about that whiskey is Dan Garrison. And I think that's, it's one of the most beautiful things about it.

Drew (00:44:02):
Yeah. Well, it's great that I think people is an important part because it is part of your personality from the label into what's in the bottle and the legacy of the whiskey as well.

Robert (00:44:18):
All right. So what I'm handing you now, so we talked about the core mash bills, but we always, every year, probably 20%, probably a little bit more than what we should. We experiment with new grain, new corn varietals, new grain varietals. And so a few years ago we did green oaxacan corn. And so that's one of the oldest species of corn still in existence. It's got a lot of similarities with the old grasses and how it's grown and harvested. Much smaller cobs typically that you'll see from more modern corns. But to me it's really fun. This is from deep in the heart of Mexico corn. Again, same barrel type, same part of the warehouse. Again, yeast, everything else is exactly the same on it.

Drew (00:45:06):
How did you get this corn?

Robert (00:45:08):
So this, again, fine farmers that are growing it and they've, even in the last few years, what's been fun is you've see with the kind of rise and what we've been doing and a lot of people been doing across the country between chefs, these corn and older varietals become a lot more available. Because even here in North Texas, you've seen bloody butcher return. It's grown over in Denton now, where again, I think I've given the crop insurers here in North Texas, a heart attack every time they see us doing something, because we're always growing new varietals. I mean, heck, my mom just over here next to the distillery, we did a test crop of orange atomic corn this year. Wow. Little tiny orange, flint corn. But yeah, and again, we've got crazy stuff like glass jam, flint, corn. I mean we, there's 30 something varietals of corn in the back right now. But just to highlight just the differences between the different corns,

Drew (00:46:12):
I'm going to quote my brother from yesterday because he's, he's not a whiskey drinker, but we were doing our tastings and I was trying to teach him how to drink a whiskey meat. And the first two whiskeys, I had him try, he said, and smells and tastes like whiskey. But by the time we got to the fourth one, which was yours, he said, I can tell a difference between these. He said, you know, do sense, a different mouth feel to them you do sense something. It's just not being able to put your finger on it. And my challenge has been as his challenge is that we grew up in a family where you just ate dinner, you didn't really pay attention to what you were eating, so you weren't paying attention to the smells and the experience of what it felt like while you were eating it and all of that. And whiskey has kind of created that for me. It's made me pay attention.

Robert (00:47:06):
It's, it slows you down. And I think that's the beauty again, because we always talk a lot of people, well what's the purpose of whiskey? What's the pur? And again, there's a lot of people can wax and win philosophically a lot better than I can on it. But the purpose is one that everybody's going to have a different purpose when they're coming to it. But for me, it's that I use to slow down focus in on the moment and almost, you can almost be meditative about it. You can share with other people and have that memory of that day. It doesn't have to be the best whiskey in the world, but you'll remember that whiskey that day. And again, for this, you just sit down and focus on it rather than other things for a little bit.

Drew (00:47:50):
It's really nice. I don't to put my finger on exactly what flavors getting out of there. Everything to me reminds me of licorice and the dark chocolate and those kinds of things in there that jump out of it. Again, the richness in it. And I always tilting the glass around to see the legs to see. And so I can tell ahead of time that there's, there's going to be a nice mouth feel to it because those legs are nice and heavy around there as they're rolling. But yeah, I mean that's a really nice whiskey. Yeah.

Robert (00:48:34):
Yeah, it's fun. And again, sometimes it's hard to, but I mean, you can sense and feel just even the difference between it and the bloody butcher corn just, and it's not even huge differences in the amounts of corns. It's small. Even small amounts of those heirloom corns really can shift flavor of that whiskey.

Drew (00:48:53):
Yeah. Yeah. Very nice. So talk about your journey into this. You started, were in law school, your brother was a biomedical degree. Is that what I

Robert (00:49:07):
Say? He's a biomedical engineer. Biomedical

Engineer. Jonathan, we'll talk about him first. Has more degrees than I know what to do with he undergrad from Texas Tech with industrial engineering, but also pre-med. Then went and got a master's in biomedical engineering at St. Louis University. And then went and did mechanical engineering masters at Wash U in St. Louis. And then partway through that he actually was down in Fort Worth working for a company called Medtronic, designing drill bits and saw blades for neurosurgery. Oh wow. That's what he did for me. I was graduating from law, I graduated from law school, but decided to, before the end of my last year of law school, I wasn't going to be a lawyer. And my mom tells the story the best, but I kind of revealed that to everybody at Christmas dinner before I graduated that May, because my mom was really happy that everyone's going to be finally completely graduated and out in the world. And I had to drop that bomb on her. But it was from there that again, she and I went out to Kentucky. We actually drove out there before we got to Kentucky. We stopped at Uber Star Lights. It's like a, it's out, it's in Indiana, just across the river from Oh, okay.

Drew (00:50:31):
Louisville. Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah.

Robert (00:50:32):
Beautiful giant vineyard fruit orchards, like giant farm that does beautiful. And actually some very, very nice bourbons as well. But we're talking with Ted, who is the head of the ADI at the time, the president. And he was like, if you guys were looking at starting craft distillery, he is like, don't go to Jim Beam, don't go to Jack Daniels. He's like, they're great and you should visit them eventually, but what you need to do is go and visit all the small distillers. You need to look and see how everybody's doing things, because that's what you're going to be doing. You're not going to be doing what they're doing. So unless you got more money than I know about. And

Drew (00:51:09):
You'd have column stills out there. Yeah, exactly. If you saw them.

Robert (00:51:13):
So that's where we started touring all these small distillers in and around Kentucky and obviously fell head over heels. And next thing I know I'm going to conferences and that's again where I met Nancy and moved on from there. But we came back from that spring bake before I graduated, and that's again, we're talking about the Vedo story. That's when we visited Ven Dome and they asked us what type of still we wanted. And I was like, I don't know right now. It's like, well, we'll put you on the list. But

Drew (00:51:41):
Did you have a distillery while you were in Kentucky that you said, wow, this is, is the one that's making me really want to get started on this?

Robert (00:51:52):
It honestly was Hubert, Ted Hubert, because they were doing brandy. And that was really one of my first love. My family. They didn't drink a lot, but my parents had really gotten into wine. And as part of that where they would go and do the wine tastings, the guy that was in charge of it would grab my dad and they would go in the back and they'd start drinking Armon y rather than drinking wine. And so next thing I know, I'm getting drug in there and I'm getting bottles for Christmas of cognac and armac. So I fell in love with that. And so I saw an American that, he was the first American distiller that I saw making brandy. And so that's always been a really soft spot in our heart for brandy's. And so that's also kind of why we lean on the French tradition a little bit harder than you would expect for American whiskey distillery.

Drew (00:52:40):

Robert (00:52:42):
And so from there, that was kind of what tricked. And so that was actually, he had German stills and it was very more German in his process. And the way that he approached things. Again, some of the Ode vs and things like that the Germans are more known for. But that was probably the first one. Obviously we ended up at Pritchards down in Tennessee. Okay. Little schoolhouse out there. Yeah, I've been there. We ended up in a number of different places. Pritchards was fun because that was, again, you're just kind of out there and just to see what they were doing, what they were accomplishing.

Drew (00:53:17):
Well, and his philosophy, because they started out there, you couldn't make whiskey in Tennessee. He had a lot to do with getting this whole start of a Tennessee whiskey trail started. Because before that it was just Dickel and Jack Daniels Daniels. And they were the only ones legally allowed to make it there. And then here he comes in and he's working on Brandy's and he's just now getting into the work on whiskeys,

Robert (00:53:48):
Which is crazy. Yeah,

Drew (00:53:49):
It is. For as long as he's been there. Cause he's been there since the, I guess mid nineties, somewhere around there. So

Robert (00:53:55):
Also in Nashville ran into and Bowling Green ran into Coser. Okay.

Drew (00:54:00):

Robert (00:54:00):
And that was again that, that's when you kind of have your mind kind of like what in the world, talking with Derek Bell and those guys early on, I mean, the year I was there, I was talking to him and I was like, so how many mash be did you run this year? And he is like, ah, I think we're at 150 different mash bells. And they were head deep into experimenting with different smokes. And I mean, one of the things that I fell in love with while I was there, they had this avocado wood smoked single malt that I absolutely loved this beautiful sweet smoke. Just gorgeous and really, really fun. I mean, those guys, and that's what they do. They do crazy, crazy. I mean, as far as we experiment, they take it to a whole different

Drew (00:54:42):

Robert (00:54:45):
On experimentation. But I think that, again, it's one of those things that you see all these different kind of styles doing things and it really inspires you to, okay, well I want to dive in and learn everything. Yeah.

Drew (00:54:57):
Yeah. So you get, well, I guess the first question is how you got your brother involved?

Robert (00:55:02):
So after I announced that, yeah, we're going to, I, I'm going to go work at distilleries or I want to start a distillery, he was like, you know what? I don't want to work in a cubicle all day either. So he looked at his wife and was like, do you mind if I do this? And she goes, as long as we're living in Texas, you can do whatever you want. So

Drew (00:55:24):
Nice. Cause she must be from here. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. And so it's like Texas is a whole different mentality. It really

Robert (00:55:30):
Is. And

For us, it was like, again, for me, I didn't have wife didn't have significant no children. So I was go to the wind, I can could, because we had originally joked about starting a distillery, but when we retired. And so my idea was like, well at that point we'll have families, kids, significant others that people that rely on us for things, why not do something? Because we're looking into this. It's a silly and crazy thing to do. And why not do it when we're young and dumb? Let's why wait. Of course, poor Jonathan was married and had a child already.

Drew (00:56:09):
Well, he was probably giving up a good paying job on top of

Robert (00:56:11):
It. He was the 401K in retirement and all the things. So

Drew (00:56:16):
Entrepreneurship was in his blood somewhere then. Oh

Robert (00:56:19):
Yeah. He told his boss he was going to go make whiskey and his boss, I think, thought he was going to go make moonshine words.

Drew (00:56:25):
Cause he

Robert (00:56:26):
Said the look he gave him was like, what

Drew (00:56:27):
In the world? What has happened to you? Yeah,

Robert (00:56:30):
Nice. Yeah. And that's why we kind of jumped and dove into learning everything we could. And at that point we had the French methodology just had stuck just because of, as I was talking about earlier, just the thoughtfulness of every step. There's reasons and ways that we go about it. And some of the other ways that seen Bend to some of the distillers are like, yeah, we just kind of do it and then put it in there. Or the guys who come from more of a craft brewing background. So the focus was on the brewing and the distillation front, but there wasn't that full thought all the way through the end process. And that was again, what struck me on the French side of things.

Drew (00:57:08):
So he has to set to learning, distilling. Are you l learning distilling along with him? Oh yeah. Because yeah. Okay.

Robert (00:57:14):
We dove in together. Now he's the head distiller because again, he's process oriented on everything. But I mean, for us, we've been together learning it all throughout the entire thing. Maturation, distilling, I mean, again, I was the first one that went out with Hubbert out and we actually were up in Oregon out there and distilling off the traditional Sharon Tea, the French cognac stills. And when I came back I was like, this is what we're doing. So yeah, I was like, one day I will have one. And so now we, in about three weeks, we have an own anti cognac still that's arriving here. Oh, nice. So, we'll, I dunno where we're going to set it up yet, but it's coming so well

Drew (00:57:57):
And you just won award. So the next question becomes, are you ready for what will potentially come with having that status? Now all of a sudden, people are going to be aware of you.

Robert (00:58:09):
It's been crazy and it's because I guess we rewarded that in February and we had been mean growing at a really steady pace. Things had been going really well for us for the last, we're six year, a little over six years old now, but for the last three years things we've just only been this great kind of upswing. And that hit, and again, it was right at the beginning of Covid and Forbes then dropped articles on it and next thing we know, I'm getting calls from all of our suppliers going, we need more, we need more, we need

Drew (00:58:41):

Robert (00:58:42):
And I was like, well, we had built into the business plan like a 20% growth a year. And this year again, we're, we're going to cap out of about 60% just because wow, for us, I, I've got more whiskey in the back, but I don't want to drop age statements where we have a very clear trajectory of where we want to go age wise and how we want product to taste. And our goal is that every time we put stuff out, it's better than the last batch we did. And that is a thing that we've stuck to and we're sticking to our guns on it. But yeah, it was crazy to get calls from all over the world wanting product. And again, I've got sitting orders that I don't know if I'll be able to fill for the next two that you're sitting on my desk right now with people wanting stuff. So it's been, it's again, it's one of the best problems to have as a business owner, as a distiller. So

Drew (00:59:32):
I didn't know this until I went and talked to Jack Daniels historian, but there used to be a time when Jack Daniels was on allocation because once they got the ability to start making whiskey again after prohibition, they couldn't make it fast enough. Fast enough for the demand. And this is how Sinatra got interested in it. Bogart got interested in it because it was almost a status thing because you couldn't find it anywhere and you had to know somebody to be able to get it. And he was telling me that they had this saying that we'd rather apologize than do something to the whiskey that would degrade it in some way.

Robert (01:00:17):
And I think to me, that's some people, companies would say that's, that's a, the artist mentality versus the business mentality. But I think what takes you to that place and what you do, that it's that standard is why people like something and to degrade. It doesn't make any sense to me on that. And as I said though, we'll have more whiskey in the future, but it is what it is at this point.

Drew (01:00:43):
Yeah. How did you find in the cognac region when you were visiting their relationship to whiskey? Did they kind of have a nose up in the air, kind of an attitude towards it? Or was it like, because I know the French wine or whiskey industry is growing and there is a interest in it there. The

Robert (01:01:04):
French drink more single malt than they do cognac. They love whiskey, really. They absolutely love whiskey. Nice American whiskey is something that's, or up until all the tariff situation and all that happened, American whiskey was on huge rise in Europe in Popularities growing massively. Again, that's why our relationship with Barry brothers in Rudd, they came to us because they saw it coming. And again, that's a really fun story and everything that why they came to Texas rather than anywhere else to get whiskey. But they saw it coming. But the French white were over there. Every distillery went. They were like, did you bring us a bottle? So the distillers wanted it, but it, I'd say you had Mac the, it's the house of, what is it? Macan? Macan Dew in Paris is famous for their Blanton selections and those whiskey selections there. Honestly, it's growing massively and it's amazing to see. But yeah, they were huge fans of whiskey and so I was starting talking. I was like, well, you guys are only distilling for this part of the year, you know, could make whiskey. And they're like, well, the government, if we did that, we'd have to decommission. We couldn't use the stills for cognac anymore.

But there's legal reasons why they don't do that.

Drew (01:02:33):
So I saw the Barry and Brothers name on your Texas litigation. What whiskey, what is the story behind that whiskey?

Robert (01:02:41):
So first I'll talk about Barry Brothers connection to Texas and then we'll get into the actual whiskey. So back in 1845, Barry Bro, so Barry Brothers has been in business since 1699. They've been in the same building the entire time. Their headquarters, it was originally part of it was the tennis court for King Henry vii. Oh wow.

Drew (01:03:08):
Yes. So it's an English company. Oh yeah,

Robert (01:03:10):
English. Yeah, English company. It's in London. Okay. Again, they've got crazy stories like Napoleon III used their sellers to plan his invasion of France. I mean, again, they've been in business and they've been in the wine. They're the oldest wine and spirits merchant in the uk. So they do stuff for the Crown, they provide all that. And they're building his number three St. James Street. So they're got underground tunnels that connect to the palaces and stuff. Wow. Wow. It's crazy. So

Drew (01:03:39):
You can get your spirits now. They can get their spirits no matter what happens. Oh

Robert (01:03:43):
Yeah. Oh yeah. And so Barry brothers, in 1845, they rented out the second floor of their building to this fledging country called Texas to operate as part of the embassy. It was called the Ligation because they wanted some offices that were close to the palaces, to the St. James Palace and to Buckingham so they could have connections over there. So for three years it operated as the litigation in 1848, Texas joined the US and they up and left and didn't pay the last month's bill.

Drew (01:04:18):
Nice. Why? Who sue us. Yeah.

Robert (01:04:23):
So in the sixties, so this beautiful connection with Texas in the sixties, the governor of Texas visited London and went there, presented them, they have a plaque. They got specially because you to do something that the historic building that it's crazy, but there's a plaque on the side of the building. You actually will see it on the label and says this was the Texas litigation. And then he also handed them a check for the last month's rent that I never

Drew (01:04:48):
Paid. Oh wow. Oh, that's

Robert (01:04:49):
Great. Now he didn't give him any interest on it. No. All

Drew (01:04:53):
Right. Well hey, it's the thought that counts.

Robert (01:04:55):
Right? So we were a two year old distillery and we get a phone call a couple days before Christmas or an email, not a phone call into our info account from this company. And I had heard of Barry brothers, but I didn't know a whole lot about 'em at the time. And they said, we're looking for a Texas whiskey for this. We want a source, a Texas whiskey. We've been looking for five years and every year we bring in samples and we're waiting for the Texas whiskey. Would you like to submit whiskey this year? So we're like, we hadn't released Whiskey Ourselves yet. And so we're, my brother thought it was one of those kind of Nigerian Prince style

Drew (01:05:40):
Emails. Okay. But

Robert (01:05:42):
I looked it up and I was like, the company looks legit. The email looks right. Yeah. So we sent it stuff. And now again, that was a couple days before Christmas. Then the day before New Year's, we get a phone call on this gentleman with a heavy Scottish accent on the other end, starts talking. And I was like, what? I was like, we found it. And I was like, what did you find? He's like, your whiskey is the whiskey we've been waiting for. And so next thing I know we're sending them more barrel samples and then they, they're master because they do a lot of, they're an independent bottler, but they also do their own blend custom blends and stuff. And so they made their own blend of our whiskey and for a couple years and released it as Texas ligation over there.

Drew (01:06:22):
So was this the first whiskey you officially released?

Robert (01:06:25):
That was the first whiskey that got bottled.

Drew (01:06:27):

Robert (01:06:27):
Oh yeah. So we released ours first before we went over there and released it over there. Cause we thought that might probably not look super great.

Drew (01:06:35):
Right? Yeah. But

Robert (01:06:36):
It was crazy because it was, at the time it was 4 14, 15 month old whiskey.

Drew (01:06:40):
I was going to say by looking at the picture on the bottle of the bottle, it is a sort of light to medium

Robert (01:06:48):
Compared to

Drew (01:06:48):
The dark color. Of course that's a higher proof too. So it's more concentrated, but

Robert (01:06:55):
It's more the a lighter gold color or medium, I'd say medium gold, yeah. Color. Yeah. So if we did two additions of that and then the tariffs came in effect and we put it on halt until we were going to try to wait it out. And then we're actually sending them over more samples. So I don't know if it'll be ligation, but we're going to be doing more Barry Brothers Iron Root releases are going to be coming up. So

Drew (01:07:20):

Robert (01:07:21):
Really fun relationship. But we got to go over there. It was fun because they flew the flag of Texas out in front of the building for the entire month that we were there when we did the release and everything. The flags were out there and they had to get permission from the Queen because it's so close to the St. James in Buckingham. They had to get per permission to be able to fly another country's flag. So it was really fun. We were doing media stuff and tasting people on the whiskey and we were doing a breakfast event and they go, what's a typical Texan breakfast? And I was like, well, I mean eggs, bacon. And I was like, well actually breakfast, breakfast burritos. Breakfast tacos, breakfast burritos. And they gave me the, they're like, what

Drew (01:08:05):
Is that? So

Robert (01:08:07):
We contacted a Mexican restaurant in London and we had to go through and tell them what

Drew (01:08:13):
A burrito

Robert (01:08:14):
Breakfast burritos. And so they made breakfast burritos and they served them along with it.

Drew (01:08:18):
Oh, that's fun. Well, I mean after traveling through Scotland and Ireland and I got hooked on Irish breakfast and Scottish breakfast. No, I wish I ate that well in the morning. No. Well I mean it's probably not extremely healthy, but people seem to survive over there. Yeah. So better than the little biscuit I eat sometimes in the morning. Yeah, absolutely.

Robert (01:08:45):
So yeah, again, we're talking about crazy places, being in the right place, right time. It's been a beautiful relationship to us. And that was kind of the first time that we were like, oh, I think we're doing something really

Drew (01:09:00):
Different. Interesting.

Robert (01:09:02):
Yeah. That was because it's always one thing, you always love your own children. Yeah. But it's when someone else really goes, there's something about this. And that was the first moment for us that we realized we

Drew (01:09:15):
On something. Well, we're on international recognition and from a company that's been dealing in whiskeys for years and years and years, pretty good validation. Yeah.

Robert (01:09:25):
Makes you feel pretty good about yourself. For sure.

Drew (01:09:26):
Yeah. So how did you go about choosing the equipment that you have in the distillery? Distillery? And the other question is, did you try to start out, A lot of distilleries do with vodkas and gins?

Robert (01:09:40):
So we did start out with vodkas and gins. That was the first. So when you walk in, you see the kind of hybrid pot on the far side. That's where we make the vodka, the gin. And occasionally we'll do a triple distilled di on that. We'll run the last distillation, we'll turn the columns off and run the last pot. Okay. On that one. Yeah. Just for a little bit cleaner distill on that. I did pull a sample of that for you too. Oh, okay. I know you more of a malt fan, so

Drew (01:10:07):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Robert (01:10:11):
We did start out doing that when we first started out. I mean we were going back circuit kind of 2010 to 2012 when we were kind of learning. That was really when there was kind of the heyday of hiding where things came from and not being transparent about sourcing. Because again, there's zero things wrong with sourcing product. I'm, again, we're getting into bringing in stuff from different places and bottling stuff and doing, there's zero thing, but you need to tell people where it's coming from. And so for us, what Iron Root was, represents, and again, what we wanted to make as our product from this distillery to us, it was again, coming from that French side of things that it's supposed to be of that place. And so for anything that we were going to put iron root on, it had to be something that we made a hundred percent ourselves. And that's always been the philosophy that we've had that again, because it's true to that, that it's from that place. And so that's why anything that you see that ever has ironed on it is 100% made here. Whether vodka, gin, the whiskeys, everything like that. It's all a hundred percent made here.

Drew (01:11:18):
Nice. And then you actually had Benum come here

Robert (01:11:22):
To install still to

Drew (01:11:23):
Install still. And you said it was the first pot still they had done in quite a few years.

Robert (01:11:28):
Yeah, they, the master coppersmith got really excited when that's what we decided we were going to do. Because for a while we were looking at kind of the hybrid style still. And finally we're like, no, we want to go traditional with it. That, and that's the style we wanted to make. We knew that's the heavier spirit that was, and that was the way we wanted to do it. And yeah, we said yeah, when four, I said it'd be years away, we went to Vedo and they've done a phenomenal job building that's still like I tell everybody every day, I've got three different companies that I have stills from that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. And I would never go to another company other than Ven Dome. Wow. For another still. Wow,

Drew (01:12:13):
That's nice. Well, the last time I was in Scotland, one of the distilleries I was at said, boy, if you want a still from them right now, it's a five year backlog. Good luck.

Robert (01:12:25):
Yeah. You can't get one right now.

Drew (01:12:26):
And then when you find out that as those things go, I mean they'll last for years and years and years and years and years. But I was at one of the distilleries and they said we waited a little too long and one of our stills just collapsed on it. Implodes basically is what it does when the copper is constantly being worn away over time. It takes 20, 30 years for it to get to that point. But yeah. And then you're stuck because your main pot still

Robert (01:12:56):
Is down and gone is

Drew (01:12:57):
Not available for you. And I know when you mentioned the distillery that had the backlog on the stills, I know why they had a backlog on the stills because I've been to what

Robert (01:13:09):
They were doing

Drew (01:13:10):
That distillery and there's so many pot stills in there that they kind of had the run of the place for a while. Oh

Robert (01:13:16):
Yeah. And again, not the foresight. Foresights does an amazing job with pot stills. Yeah, they phenomenal company. But honestly I couldn't imagine, again, if we get another pot still, we're going to be going right back to Ven Dome just because that still is so easy, so consistent. So again, it makes my life 10 times easier having that still.

Drew (01:13:38):
Yeah. Very nice. So your sooner later your mother got involved. How did that happen? So

Robert (01:13:45):
It was probably about a month into running things. Obviously my mom and dad were down here helping us set things up, going. And she was going back and forth back up to Illinois. And on her second visit down here was, she was like, I'm just going to stay for a little bit. I'm going to help you with this, going to help do that. And she just never left.

Drew (01:14:07):

Robert (01:14:07):
She became so integral and it, it's so fun. Want to see her development too, because she came from, was a teacher touch children, preschool, children with disabilities for, that's what she did for all of her life. And so she didn't really drink whiskey or anything before we started getting into this. And now she's gotten so into it over the last decade plus that she's on the blending team and drink. She drinks whiskey straight, she does nice, all the things. We couldn't do this without her. Plain and simple is,

Drew (01:14:44):
So when you do your tastings, do you, your blendings, you all kind of go back and deliberate over and say, Hey, here's what I like about this barrel and here's this one's not ready, and that sort of thing. So

Robert (01:14:58):
What we do is, so obviously we do the kind of quarterly, we're pulling barrels through, tasting through 'em. We do that all as a group. And as we're going through that, we'll start looking for barrels, especially as they're getting older. Is this one more of a harbinger profile? This one Promethean is this kind of an outlier profile. And we'll start kind of categorizing whiskeys as they're going. Sometimes they'll jump because again, barrels they're, they're always growing up though always right. Doing their thing. But we'll start kind of categorizing and then when we go in to do blends, we'll look at the barrels that we had signified that we think are ready for blending or mature enough that they could be used for blends. And we know which ones are on profile for what we're looking for. And Jonathan will go pull those and he'll do the initial development of the blend.

Him and Marsha typically do that. And from there we'll come up with a few iterations. We sit down as the full kind of full tasting panel like Jonathan, me, Marsha, we'll have Ashley, sometimes Chris Trevino, or even once in a while, Josh Gal day, we'll come up here and cause we always like having one, the three of us, but we'll also have someone else, Nancy Fraley will be here occasionally as well. And we'll go through and we'll taste the concept blends, kind of say what we like about this one or what we don't, what what's good, bad, where are the deficiencies that, and then they'll kind of rework the blends. Or if you're noticing something, we'll go back through notice of the glass, we'll pull barrels out or add barrels in at that point, kind of come up with a mother blend. From there, we'll all we'll taste that kind of concept blend versus the last four or five iterations of that whiskey.

And if we blindly as a group, everyone has to be unanimous, chooses that as the new one in a blind tasting as the favorite one on the table, then I'll start prepping that for pulling. So we'll start doing those slow reduction down to bottling strength, whether it that's one 15 or 90 or where we're going with it. And we'll slowly start dropping it down. And every few weeks as we're going through that, we'll pull the blend together and we'll make adjustments. We may add a barrel in, we may pull something out and we'll slowly kind of work the blend until we finally are ready to

Drew (01:17:12):
Go. Okay, do you hold some bottles back so you can learn your progress and see how you're doing better over

Robert (01:17:19):
Time? Cases of ev, every, everything that we make that way, I always want to have a library of where we've come from and so where you're going. Yeah, I think ultimately it's at some point people ask, are we going to have a final thing? This is what we're trying to blend to every time. And again, maybe it's a little bit of the artist in us a little bit that we have, I love the Japanese philosophy that you're always trying to make something better and that you're always trying to reach the top of the mountain, but you never do. Yeah. There's always some way to make it better. And I think that's the same when it comes to whiskey. So every time we do a blend, even on the core blends, it's always an attempt to make that whiskey better than the previous blend.

Drew (01:18:03):
It's interesting because I think of a whiskey like Laro, which is my favorite. And when I am around La Freud and I smell it and I taste it, if it changed, I don't know if I'd totally know to the smallest detail. I mean, I know master tasters who have tasted it over 10 years and they've said it's changed. Oh yeah. But I'm probably not to that degree. But if somebody becomes a fan of yours because of a certain characteristic, and then all of a sudden that char characteristic isn't in there anymore, it becomes kind of that balance between figuring out what is it that makes our whiskey, our

Robert (01:18:45):
Whiskey, our

Drew (01:18:46):
Whiskey that will always set us apart that

Robert (01:18:53):
So we have an idea of profile that that whiskey is supposed to be whether kind of the fruits and what encapsulates that, a harbinger or Promethean. And so in our minds we know what that is of what that kind of core flavors that make up that whiskey. And so we're not going to go away from that. But how do we make that the finish longer? How do we make it more dense, more flavorful, right? No matter what the proof is, how do we make it a better, again, it's a better experience, whether that's a slight nuanced flavor that's going to set something else off in it, or again, adding some barrels that have more depth to 'em or something along those lines. Yeah.

Drew (01:19:34):
Well, and I was going to say you have two different ways of going about that because one is, well, I mean three different ways because you can start with what you're blending together in terms of grain to make it work. You can go in when you're doing your fermentation and do fermentation at different periods of time. You can choose where your cuts are between heads, tails, and hearts.

Robert (01:19:56):
And that's how we've grown. And we've made adjustments to every part of our process over the last six years, whether that's on the maturation side, whether that's fermentation of playing around with sour mashing, how much sour mashing to do or pure sweet mashing, or do we do two separate things and then use those in blending together to try to get to a certain profile? Do we introduce a new secondary yeast to what we're doing? Again, there's all sorts of things that we play with on what we're doing, or we were using an elbo rin, maybe a, which is a similar rib varietal, but slightly different. Would that be something that would be add more density or more flavor to what we're trying to achieve?

Drew (01:20:44):
Yeah. And you talked about, two things I want to talk about is fermentation and yeast, because fermentation there are, depends on the distillery you go to, but usually the suggestion is the longer you let it ferment, the more fruity characters come out in the whiskey you find. Do you find that, and how long do you usually ferment for? So we

Robert (01:21:04):
Do a seven day fermentation, and I think you're always looking for Esther production and you can get different Esther to form during different parts of the fermentation process. Again, for me, and again, we can see that even during different times of years we can see, or different times of the year based on temperature outside and stuff like that, you can see a little shift in how the yeast is behaving and how it's developing. And I mean, there's some barrels that we have that have more of a rum er profile. We have some that have almost like a blue cheese, like a mushroomy type notes that we'll develop in 'em from occasionally. And sometimes, we'll, we will play around with length of fermentation. Sometimes we'll go six days, sometimes we'll go eight. And again, it's all, and basically to figure out what's the bet. Truly the best thing for us, I mean initially we were doing a longer fermentation one because we want to do the lactic at the end, but also because we do a little bit higher temperature fermentation.

It'll get a diol will form in a higher temperature fermentation, especially with corn. And then it can turn into this buttery corn mess if you're not careful. And so by doing extending the fermentation, the yeast actually will come back and eat most of the diastole and actually will pull away most of that butter, that super buttery note. You can actually and dial it way back to where it's less of a, it's not a fault anymore, it's more, it can be something that's a little tiny accent in certain cases. Right. Which again, that's I think the biggest difference between the stealing and brewing is that a lot of things that they look at and view as faults in the fermentation process, if they're done in the right amounts of the right, you allow things to happen in the right ways. Those things that are are false in fermentation that come from either bacteria or come from something else, those can actually turn in some really, really fun notes of our whiskey at the, and as long as they're in the right proportions, you can end up with something that tastes fantastic. If not, then it can be really disgusting. And so it's finding balance and all those things and always trying new things. And I think for us, again, I think if we ever we're at a point where we felt like we'd achieved it or we'd done it, I feel like it wouldn't be nearly as fun anymore.

Drew (01:23:29):
Right. And you mentioned sweet and sour mash process and bacteria, and do you subscribe to one versus the other or you just still playing around with them and seeing, I'm going to,

Robert (01:23:44):
Right now, again, this could change in five years, but right now I've, my personal opinion is there's place for both things and they both bring really great things to the table. And sometimes being able to play around with both of those I think can result in something equal to or better than the sum of its parts and which is always the goal. And I think for us, we reason why we play around so much is that our philosophy is that we can hand take care of whatever we need to on the blending table that we need that play around with things create as many, and if you're a painter, you have more colors on the palette, you can play around and really create what you're really looking for with the more tools you have.

Drew (01:24:24):
And so we talked a little bit before we went on Mike, about a yeast and how it's kind of ignored in the, not so much by distillers, right? Although, like I say, there are distillers in Scotland who just use regular distillers yeast and they're fine with that. The question is, should we use a dry yeast or a liquid yeast? And it's all about whether we're storing it or not storing it and that sort of thing. But where, what's your philosophy on yeast? Is it, and do you play with wild yeasts or We

Robert (01:25:06):
Haven't played around with wild yeast or cultivated our own yeast, probably that's a little bit out of my expertise range on the biochemistry involved on

Drew (01:25:18):

Robert (01:25:20):
And I've seen, again, some wild east cultivation and I've seen him do some really cool things. I've also seen you do some pretty not my favorite things. And so I'm slightly more hesitant on the wild east side. I've seen some breweries get taken over by certain east strains and say I'm, I'm a little bit more hesitant when it comes to Wild East just for our exploration at the moment. But again, we've played around with four or five different ye strains. We've got one major one that we primarily use. We use a lot of dry yeast, we'll play around a lot with dry yeast. Again, I've done some experiments where you take, you're cultivating yeast at home and keeping your butt and your jug going and keeping the yeast alive and playing around with that. But primarily for us, we do a lot more with dry yeast here. And it's not for a preference on one or the other. Yeah,

Drew (01:26:22):
You've got a drier climate, so likely you don't have a problem with it

Robert (01:26:27):
Going off the deep end

Drew (01:26:28):
On it.

Robert (01:26:29):
Yeah, and it's one of those things too for me that I know Dry East that I can purchase them, I can get where we are on a consistent basis. And it's a fear if we created our own kind of proprietary yeast ourselves that I could fall asleep one night and not put 'em down the well and next thing I know that yeast is dead and right then you're out of luck. And so I think part of it too is just protecting ourselves from ourselves at some level. I'll imagine. But again, I think it's so cool. And again, just even playing around with different dry yeast, they're so different from each other and what they produce Esther

Drew (01:27:07):
Wise. Yeah, I learned something every time I go to a distillery and the last distillery I went to was the first time I ever heard of scorching whiskey. And I guess it has something to do with when you are in running it through potstill, you guys are using steam as I understand. Oh yeah. But there, there's a danger of you burning that corn and it an ending up in the taste of your dist. Distillate.

Robert (01:27:36):
I have no idea who you're talking about on that one.

Drew (01:27:40):
Did you scorch some?

Robert (01:27:42):
No, I've never scorched. But again, I've had some fun whiskey that's been scorched years ago. Lc Conez did it. What are they called? Brimstone resurrection, which is still in this day is one of the craziest whiskeys I've ever tasted. And it came from a scorched pot. But yeah, it's agitators for us on all of our stilts. You'll see the agitators, especially when you're doing grain in on the pot still it's, it's essential because again, you can very easily scorch. In my moon shining days, I definitely scorched a batcher too. And you immediately start noticing there's a yellow color coming out of the still and you're like, whoa, that's something's wrong. Yeah, something gets scorched on there. So I mean, I've even, again, back in the moon shining days, did it with gin botanicals, resting on the bottom and burning onto the pot.

Drew (01:28:34):
Oh man,

Robert (01:28:35):
Scraping that off is not fun. Yeah,

Drew (01:28:38):
It's interesting that it was a moonshine. That was the one that I was just listening to him talk about the process and he said, so many of these guys scorch their whiskey. And I'm like, scorch, it's a liquid. How do you scorch a whiskey? And I didn't think about the fact that you're doing on grain distilling your giving that corn and ability to burn. Yeah.

Robert (01:29:01):
Especially when you're dealing with direct fire or direct heated or if you have heating elements inside the still, like some distillers do. It is definitely a worry on that for me. I mean, because you're looking at Maynard reactions, you're doing all the things that are going inside on inside the still, and I think a little bit of caramelization and stuff can be really fun. Again, I like playing, we love playing around with roast different roasts on grains. I mean, again, caramel, caramel maltz, I think in brewing our beautiful things. And I think there's been some single malts, some wesland, some of the other guys here in the US that I've absolutely loved. One of my favorite Glen Morans has chocolate and a little bit of chocolate molt in it. Nice. Cnet. I, so I think Nestle a little bit of sc, a little bit of roasting of the grain, I don't think is personally, I don't find anything wrong with that. But you definitely, if you're not careful, can burn stuff on the inside. But still

Drew (01:29:58):
For sure, well, you know, may find somebody who has a particular love for that particular characteristic, I guess. But mean because petered whiskey, it's a acquired taste and once you acquire it, it's hard to get away from it. So

Robert (01:30:19):
Speaking of that, okay, I got another whiskey on it for you. Okay. So one of the crazier things we've ever done. So this is a corn whiskey RIS

Drew (01:30:37):
For us Iron Maiden fans. That's

Robert (01:30:39):

Drew (01:30:41):
Nice. I like that.

Robert (01:30:42):
Hand that to you. All right.

Drew (01:30:44):
The old bottle shape there. Nice. That is a cool bottle.

Robert (01:30:46):

Drew (01:30:47):
How did you decide on that design? So

Robert (01:30:51):
Our original bottle shape is that one, is the one you're seeing. It looks kind of, it's called a shoe fly flask. It was used in the late kind of 18 hundreds. It was a whiskey bottle shape we fell in love with. It was a modern shape, unfortunately, the place that was making it for us was in China and with Covid and everything they Oh wow. They told us it was going to be over a year and a half before we could get glass again. So we had to make the decision to go away from that. So we're developing new labels and new everything right now. So we've got a cool new fiddly bit that we're going to be dealing with on the bottles. Oh, okay.

Drew (01:31:26):
Well I hope you do end up someday being able to go back to these. These are

Robert (01:31:30):
Beautiful. They're definitely going to be some going back to that I can guarantee you on that. Oh, here, lemme me grab, I got

Drew (01:31:36):
Some more tossed my glass. Oh, here it is. I just moved it right here. I was

Robert (01:31:39):
Going to say, I got some more over here too.

Drew (01:31:41):
There's a lot of glassware on this table, so it's easy to miss out on it. So

Robert (01:31:45):
Our first whiskey that kind of got well known and won awards and stuff was our corn whiskey hubris. So as a cast strength, our purple corn mash bill, we aged in its ex bourbon barrel, but oak. And so a couple years later, my brother and I were joking with Nancy. We were actually at her house drinking as we do a lot. We were lamenting, we're like, well, corn whiskey is the redheaded stepchild in the whiskey industry. So it kind of fits that we make it and that it's our thing that we do. But we joke well, but what would happen if it had respect, it would be really cool. And so we were joking that, well, scotch is the most respected whiskey in the world. What if we treated corn whiskey like a scotch? My two favorite things in scotch are, I love Pete and I love pork cask sherry barrels. I love those two things.

Drew (01:32:44):
So aerobic 15. Oh yeah, there's, when they do it right, it's beautiful blend.

Robert (01:32:51):
It's fantastic. And so for us, we're like, well, what if we did that with a corn whiskey? And so we got some scotch barrels, we got some pork casks, and the next year hubris released half of it. The other half of it we put in scotch barrels from Isla and pork casks and led it age independently with each other. And we came back and blended it at the end. And so it's become kind of a cult favorite of one for usbl to blend every year, but just we get asked about this whiskey more than any other whiskey we make, especially the peat heads. And again, it's a mild, it's a medium to low peat. It's not heavy peat, but it all comes from cask and none of it's the grain is ped.

Drew (01:33:37):
I was going to say, the one thing that I've learned about peat in Scotland is that if you get it a whiskey from Isla, it'll have a very earthy and medicinal kind of the brininess of it. If you get it from a ped whiskey, from the highlands, it's more floral. It's like the heather and all of those, because you're basically dealing with compacted dirt. Yeah. That you're burning. So again, as you talk about terroir, that in a way is a larger regional kind of a terroir on a repeated whiskey. Oh,

Robert (01:34:20):
A hundred percent.

Drew (01:34:23):
The more that's so cool about whiskey is it keeps unveiling itself more and more. As you start digging in, you realize, oh, well there's not all scotch is smoke. And then when you do get a smokey scotch, then you can go from the island smoke to the highland smoke, and it just keeps growing and growing. And what's interesting is I didn't smell the peat or smoke on it when I had my nose to it, but when I pulled my nose away from it,

Robert (01:34:56):
Kick whiffs of

Drew (01:34:57):
It, I was getting little whiffs of, because all of a sudden I was thinking, wait a second. I know that smell. So

Robert (01:35:02):
My favorite thing, the way that we blend this kind of the intention, and again, when you're tasting whiskey, it's going to present itself differently to everybody, but we wanted to create a little bit of a rollercoaster that kind of starts out, that brings you in with a little bit more fruity nose and you taste it, you're going to get more of that up front. The corn whiskey and kind of the richness of that corn whiskey will kind of hit you in the mid palate. And then as you breathe out on the finish, that's when you're going to get most of the peat, the feeling and the taste of peats going to come through on the finish.

Drew (01:35:30):
Interesting. It's interesting because it's like there's a little Kentucky there in the middle and then you're taking a boat,

Robert (01:35:41):
You're jumping on the ocean

Drew (01:35:43):
And you're heading overseas.

Robert (01:35:44):
And so we only release it here. It's only a small fun release. But again, getting to play with Pete every nice,

Drew (01:35:52):
There's a fruity, little fruity characteristic to it too. And I'm guessing that's coming from the pork. Yeah, yeah. Because it's almost like a, it's, it's not an aggressive sour, this is a hint of a sour in there. And I get that sometimes and a little plum.

Robert (01:36:09):
Oh yeah.

Drew (01:36:10):
That's really interesting. Yeah,

Robert (01:36:13):
It's crazy. It's weird. But I love it. And that's anytime

Drew (01:36:17):
People, I tell you, I walk into distilleries anywhere. I was in Chattanooga the other day and we were looking in their warehouse and I saw single malt Pete and I went, all right, I got to no, sooner later I'll be looking for a bottle because, because I love that there are distilleries like you guys and Westland and the rest who have that balconies, that have that appreciation for scotch whiskey and want to figure out how to, not copy it, but bring in some of the essence

Robert (01:36:56):
Essences of it. Yeah, yeah.

Drew (01:36:57):

Robert (01:36:57):

Drew (01:36:59):
And always a very rich flavor experience when you start out corn whiskey's interesting because I've had, I did an experiment, oh, there's a little that I get a little Swiss cheese note. Yeah, yeah.

Robert (01:37:11):
I tell you. Little blue cheese, blue cheese note. Yeah. Yeah.

Drew (01:37:14):
Yep. I do. In fact, I mentioned that last night, I was telling my brother, I said, I think for some reason I get Swiss cheese out of whiskeys. And I don't know why. I think it's a combination of the oil, because Swiss cheese is, and oily gas gassy kind of a cheese. You

Robert (01:37:30):
See it a lot on brandy. Some old brandies. Again, the French call, the call it rano, but again, it's a blue cheesy and you don't get it with all the old ones, but they're just certain ones that you'll get. And it just presents itself, it's blue cheese and mushroom. Yeah. And it's such a cool, really fun flavor because you don't experience that most of the time, but when you get it, yeah, it's so much fun. But yeah. Yeah, get a little bit of that cheesy, and again, that's talk that's coming when we're talking about that longer fermentation, playing around with some of the malac fermentation. And that's where that's kind of coming into play on some of the fermentations.

Drew (01:38:09):
This is the plus of the heavier mouth feel to me, is that if you get that little bourbon, caramel, vanilla thing going on at the beginning, it's like a wethers original

Robert (01:38:21):
In, you keep rolling around,

Drew (01:38:22):
It's milky and interesting. And that adds to the, but yeah, I did a, where I tasted mellow corn, which is 95% corn, 5% malted barley against Nika coffee grain, which is the same exact grain bill. But the differences between them two, those two, just in how they're aged and how they are, the wood that they sit in, the areas they sit in, they just have two completely different characters to them with the exact same ingredients. So I don't know what Japanese corn is like, but that may be that it could be that grain that is that Japanese note that I pull out of things. I'll

Robert (01:39:09):
Tell you what I get excited about on that. I've been, it's fun as a small distillery because you get reached out to buy distillery from all over the world, something will happen and we'll get people from Brazil coming and talk to us. But one of the best experiences we've had recently, we had a Vietnamese distiller come to us and they're wanting to do theirs, what they call waxy corn. And it's over in Vietnam and in Asia. That's a special varieties of corn that developed over there. And they're super unique, super, but they're dying out because the companies that come in and they're getting the plant more traditional corn. And so these really regional rare corn varieties are kind of dying out. And so that's what the distiller had a passion for that corn and wanted to say, because he views it from his family, it's part of their culture and where they come from.

And he thought that, again, seeing us do these things with these different corns, wanted to help incentivize the farmers to continue growing these. And by doing that to be able to create something that they could sell and do. So he created this distillery to encourage the farmers to continue growing these waxy corns. Yes. And start developing an industry based on that. And so we've been chatting here and there on that. And again, to me, that's one of the coolest things that even in remotely get to be a part of. And again, they've done a really cool gin with it and stuff like that as well. But yeah, I dunno. Again, there's so much character and so much flair. And again, I can only imagine what a waxy corn does. I haven't gotten a chance to taste the corn like distillate by itself yet. But yeah, I'm looking forward to it.

Drew (01:40:57):
This is the first time on the finish of a whiskey that I tasted corn on the cob. That was really interesting because I don't know how many corn whiskeys I've drank in my life, but that's the first one where just sitting here, I'm like, man, I'm craving corn on the cob all of a sudden that

Robert (01:41:13):
Roasted corn character. Oh yeah.

Drew (01:41:15):
Yeah. That's really nice. That is a fascinating whiskey. It makes me wonder what somebody in Scotland would TA think if they tasted that master distiller in Scotland goes, Ooh, corn whiskey. Yeah. Okay. And then goes in there, because one of the things that I appreciate about scotch whiskey versus bourbon is that bourbon is sometimes in your face. And Texas whiskey is even more in your face. And when you taste a scotch, to me, whenever I hear somebody say, scotch is harsh, I'm like, I don't know. When I taste scotch whiskey, I just feel like I have a whole pate of flavors to go after.

Robert (01:41:54):
And I think that's been the biggest criticism of bourbon, is that the flavor pallet is so narrow compared to scotch and because I think one scotch malt avails itself to so many flavors and the wine casks and everything that's built into scotch whiskey, you're right. I mean, there's so much flavor, there's so much to experience. And then even within all their different regions again, I mean, we get the Campbelltown funk and all that other

Drew (01:42:17):
Stuff. So you get the saltiness of pny or Oh, yeah.

Robert (01:42:22):
And I think part of the narrowness of bourbon, I think one had to do with that. It's so regionalized and so uniform in the way that it was being produced and what it was being produced from. And it's one of the things that makes me excited about the American craft movement that now you're having these whiskeys made and all the regions, and again, you have all these different grains, all these different things being used that again, haven't really been explored. And the Kentucky guys have really gotten on it in the last few years and playing around and doing some really cool stuff, but it doesn't maturing something in Texas and Florida and Washington state and Maine and Iowa. I mean, they're all different than what they experience. And I think that you'll see a more breadth, wider breadth of bourbon really start to develop. And again, I think you've started to see it, and there was initial rejection of this doesn't taste like bourbon. And that in the last, and again, even in the last two years, I think is going away. And now people are like, oh, okay. Well, it's a different thing. And I, I'm okay with it now. Yeah. But I think again, that's always been what's inspired me about scotch whiskey is the flavor profiles are so

Drew (01:43:38):
Wide, but you hit on something. For instance, I had old Forrester 100, and to me, every time I sit down and taste it, it's something different. So the potential is definitely there

Robert (01:43:53):
And they have it it in their warehouses. I mean, think you're seeing it a little bit more with the love of the single barrel and the store picks and everything coming up and things that are not to the normal profile.

Drew (01:44:05):
Well and higher proofs. I think that makes a big difference too. Yeah, I agree. Because we're tasting more of the whiskey and

Robert (01:44:11):
It's not off profile. So it's being blended into gentlemen's Kentucky, gentlemen, they're 80 proof and chill, filtered to heck and everything. Yeah. Because I think that in the past, that's what was being done. If it wasn't on profile for one of the big major brands, it was just getting tossed aside. And now those things are being like, well, wait a minute, maybe there is some value in that. And I think that, again, where American whiskey was in the eighties versus where it is now, is a completely different place. And where it's going to be in the next 20 years, four years, who knows. I mean, I think the rise of the American single malts and the playing around with that, it's been super exciting to see the revival of rye whiskey in the US has been really crazy. There's some really, really cool wheat whiskeys that are coming out now that are, again, bold and rich and all sorts of things that you never associated with spicy wheat whiskeys. Yeah.

Drew (01:45:08):

Robert (01:45:10):

Drew (01:45:10):
With age and adding in Pete Peated malt to see what it does. Yeah. I mean, it can only benefit us as whiskey drinkers to have all this variety at our disposal. People

Robert (01:45:24):
Willing to do crazy, silly things. Yes,

Drew (01:45:26):
Exactly. Yes. Very good. So what would we taste next?

Robert (01:45:34):
So I've got two things left that I would like you to taste if you look for it. Okay. One, just for fun, as I said, I pulled a little bit of our Irish style. We have malt whiskey in the back. We've got our malt program and our brandy program or what our, they're kind of more passion project focused. And so you won't see them on the market until years from now. They're okay. The goal with our grape brandy that we do is the first thing we'll release ultimately down the line. We did one tiny thing with orange musk gett a few years ago, but the real big thing that we're going to be doing, it'll be a 10 year old when we first start releasing it.

Drew (01:46:20):
Oh, nice.

Robert (01:46:22):
It's the same idea with the malts. We want those to be eight to 12 years old before we start releasing 'em. And so they're all, the malts are all starting to hit about three years now. The grape is about six years old now, so they're all on their way, but they're kind of fun to taste every once in a while. So

Drew (01:46:38):
I was going to say, if you're doing a malt and you're trying to get that far out in terms of date, you have to be treating those even differently than you're doing anything else right now, because we're talking Scotland, weather is the reason that you can go 10 years on a malt. Well,

Robert (01:46:58):
And just to point out, so you can look at, so the corn whiskeys aged in used cask. Okay. So this is used cas, but it's much more used cas. You can see. So this is three year old, three-year olds. So just now becoming whiskey in the Scottish eyes.

Drew (01:47:13):

Robert (01:47:15):
But it's got a long way to go still. Is

Drew (01:47:17):
It a, now they use terminology first, second fill, third fill, meaning first fill. It was a bourbon cast or sherry cast that they just got in. And this is the first time they've filled it. Do you know how many fills that cast had?

Robert (01:47:31):
This would be a second

Drew (01:47:32):
Fill cast, second fill cast. Okay. Okay.

Robert (01:47:35):
So we've got some sherry cast back there that I think we're on either second or third fill on. Okay. As well. Yeah. But mean when we're back there, we'll, we'll wander around. Okay. I wanted to go ahead and pull this one initially just, yeah, actually I'll pour some for myself because

Drew (01:47:53):
Very nice. This is definitely the perk of this business for you is you get to enjoy some nice whiskey every

Robert (01:47:59):
Day. It makes life easier, I tell you that. Yeah. But although

Drew (01:48:03):
You get to taste your mistakes too.

Robert (01:48:05):
That is very true. You're like, oh God, what did I do? Yeah.

Drew (01:48:09):
Well, have you ever had one that you just, after you taste it and you say, I don't know if this is ever going to get

Robert (01:48:17):
The first single malt we made the malt, it just came off. It didn't have a ton of flavor. And so in the first few years we were like, I just don't know if this is ever going to get, and then this last year is taken a funky turn and it's one of those things, sometimes I love it. Sometimes I still don't know about this one. So the, there's again, we've been playing around with different malts grown in different places. Like this one, right, you're tasting right now is, so it's an Irish pot still style whiskey. So it's actually 60% Unmalted Texas barley. Okay. And 40% Irish malt.

Drew (01:49:00):
Okay. All right. So what's interesting about this nose, I love this nose, but you're going to laugh when I tell you what it reminds me of. Go for it. My favorite cookie in the world, another butter.

Robert (01:49:14):

Drew (01:49:14):
Yeah. I smell, I always say I judge oak by peanut. If I smell, my brain says peanut when I smell that kind of little bit of oakness in there, like a sweet oakiness, really.

So I get that. But yeah, and there's a spiciness to it too, that I pull out of it. I always anticipate because it's triple distilled, that a Irish whiskey is not going to have a heavier mouth feel to it, and it's going to be light in flavor. And so using your philosophy on keeping the oils in, and does this feel like this is kind of a rule breaker for you to try something different? Or are you trying to create a whiskey that can be triple distilled and still have really nice mouth feel? I mean, you can definitely see the legs on there. They're probably not as thick as they were on the other.

Robert (01:50:23):
This one think's right around 112 proof is it ask right now.

Drew (01:50:26):
Okay. So it's

Robert (01:50:27):
A little bit lower proof. The goal with us is always mouth feel. And it's the challenge of how do you achieve that in triple distillation. And so we've had a few ideas over the years of how to play around with that.

Drew (01:50:45):
That's interesting. I want to say it's coming from your yeast or something, but there's almost like a little saccharine thing that comes on the finish of

Robert (01:50:54):
All the whiskeys. Yeah.

Drew (01:50:56):
You think that's the yeast

Robert (01:50:58):
Could be. So the yeast that we're using for this, and one of the major yeast for several of our mashbill on the bourbon side is the traditional Macallan East. Okay. But we do it at a higher temperature than what they're going to be doing a much higher temperature. So it plays a little bit different. So yeah, you are going to get a little bit more, I do get a little bit more sweetness out of it naturally.

Drew (01:51:23):
Yeah. That's interesting. You can taste the graininess in it a little, I don't want to call it oatmeal, but kind of that

Robert (01:51:34):
Yeah. Young malt kind of. Yeah.

Drew (01:51:36):
Yeah. It's very interesting. But I was so paying attention to the flavor because everything I've tasted you, you've given me so far. Flavor definitely is pronounced when you put it in your mouth. And this is the first time I actually forgot to pay attention to the mouth deal as I drank it, because I was enjoying, even though I was just talking about it, I think it still has a good mouth feel to it.

Robert (01:52:04):
It's definitely lighter than the other ones. Yeah,

Drew (01:52:07):
It is. But it, it's still there. Like I say, sometimes an Irish whiskey can be drinking water,

Robert (01:52:13):
It just evaporates off your pallet.

Drew (01:52:14):
Yeah, yeah. But of course the Irish whiskey industry is completely changing now. It's gone from three distilleries to, or two distilleries actually up to

Robert (01:52:26):
I think 36 or something. There's in 36. Yeah, there's something,

Drew (01:52:29):
Because when I was planning out once to visit, I had 12 to go to in April, and I was reading, and there were probably about eight to 10 of them coming online after my trip would've been. Oh man. So it is really going fast.

Robert (01:52:44):
Mean that's it's brands, I'm thinking of the 36, but yeah, it's something like it in tripled the amount of, I mean, again, from two, that's not difficult. But yeah.

Drew (01:52:53):
And they're experimenting too. They're doing, some are in the Scottish style, some are

Robert (01:52:58):
Pringle. And yeah, again, you're looking at, when we talked about Mark Rainier and what he did at Brook Lottie and then going over and trying to do something crazy in Ireland. And yeah, I know, again, I'm fascinated constantly by what he's working on trying to do. But again, I think you have a renegade in Ireland. And so just seeing that sort of experimentation doesn't surprise me at all. Yeah.

Drew (01:53:31):
Yeah. It's fun. I've been to Dingle Dingles, the only distillery I've been to in Ireland, and they were just releasing their five year at that point. But when I was there and talking to them, I remember them saying, there's only one other independent distillery in the state, and they haven't released any or in the country and they haven't released anything yet. And I'm thinking, wow. And that was just two years ago, and now all of a sudden we're talking about their spread all across the island. So that's good stuff.

Robert (01:54:05):
All right on until the last thing for the moment. So this is a blend that we're working on right now. Okay. So why don't we just pull this out of the coup deme, the little mother blend that we're working on.

Drew (01:54:18):
Oh, look at that. All right. No label. It is just in the A car, I guess what we call

Robert (01:54:22):
It. Yeah. We've got a little car jar here. So this is hopefully something that will come out towards the end of the year. This is kind of our, we're working on what's going to be kind of our celebration for Harbinger for what it's done and what it's done for us this year. And so this is some of our six year olds bourbon in this. Oh

Drew (01:54:45):
Man. Okay. This will be interesting. Six year old Texas bourbon, something that this is a unicorn.

Robert (01:54:53):
You don't see a whole lot of these

Drew (01:54:59):
Very nice looks like maple syrup. What's the proof on this one? Probably

Robert (01:55:06):
133 on this. Okay. So this will wake me up. This is a big one. Yeah. Especially coming off the one 10 on the last one.

Drew (01:55:14):
Yeah, that's, I was at Old Smokey and I was doing, he gave me something straight off the, well, they were actually barrel aging, something in a small barrel that they'd only had in there for five or six days, and it already had some decent color to it. And he handed it to me and said, just take a little sip. And I took a whole mouthful and he was looking at me, are you kidding me? I'm like, well, I'm getting used to this. Now. Once you get, well, you can have really harsh whiskeys at that high level, but man, if you're drinking something at 130 proof and you can keep it in your mouth and enjoy it and pull flavors, that's something

Robert (01:55:57):
That's a whole different animal. Yeah. Again, a lot of people look at me weird, but I'm like, we're working at the distiller. I'm tasting stuff off the still every day. Yeah. 140 proof is what I'm tasting like that. So that's like 90 proof tastes like water to me anymore blowing my pallet out.

Drew (01:56:17):
Well, the first thing that I would expect to get out of this is a really heavy Okie nose, but I don't, there is oak in there. I mean, there's that nutty kind of a, but it is, it's not pronounced. But again, a little of that Texas corn in there. Oh, very nice mouth feel to that. And it's got all those little brown sugars, but it's not overly sweet. It's like a nice, Ooh. And again, I don't know why I keep pulling out licorice. It might be on my mind, but I'm getting those kinds of

Robert (01:57:01):
Dark, dark, yeah. Sweet. Yeah.

Drew (01:57:03):
Substantial. Sometimes I'll say a soy sauce or something. It just has this fullness to it. It's a darker flavor that, again, it's rich If I said anything, not rich in a sweet way, but rich in a full body,

Robert (01:57:24):
Just kind of a way hits your mouth and just kind of sits there and hangs out with

Drew (01:57:28):
You. Well, and the best thing about every one of these, and there's that little saccharine thing at the end, they're whiskeys you could sit with and just pick things out. And probably every time I tasted this, well, there's the corn. All of a sudden corn just showed up out of nowhere that you could just, this is a good whiskey to just sit around with and enjoy and contemplate and what am I tasting today? Yeah.

Robert (01:57:55):
What am I feeling today? Yeah. And to me, one of the beautiful things about pot still is that it preserves a lot more grain character naturally. And so what you're going to see coming out of more pot stills is stuff that's going to showcase the raw materials a little bit more than what you will out of a column still. And again, some people love it, some people not as much, but that is, I would say, a true to character O of pot still. Yeah, distillate.

Drew (01:58:27):
Yeah. That's really nice. I like it. I've tasted whiskey all over the place and it's always good when I taste one and I go, oh yeah. I kind of look for that moment when you say, okay, there's something about this one. Yeah. And like I say, a whiskey that has depth to it, but also has that richness to it. So very nice. Yeah.

Robert (01:58:59):
I think there's a term you hear a lot around with Texas distillers. I think the guys down in Waco, Balcon has kind of coined it, but the focus a lot on flavored density. I think that's something you see a lot with Texas whiskeys. They tend to be a little bit more in your face. They just tend to be very dense. Something you can really chew onto. Yeah.

Drew (01:59:20):
Yeah. And it was interesting to tasting and doing some poles from their barrels and tasting their experiments with tequila barrels and that sort of thing. I mean, it is, it's wild. It is the wild West really. But I mean, all it can do is make whiskey better in the long run. I mean, we get into, they're traditionalists. I'm a baseball fan, so I understand being a traditionalist about certain things and

Robert (01:59:50):
Wait, national League or American League?

Drew (01:59:52):
American League. But I get the National League. I understand that the DH is kind of annoying for some. I grew up near Atlanta. No. So that's why I understand the National League perspective. But yeah, I mean, it's something to be said for tradition. And I hope tradition never goes away. Scotch whiskey is very traditional, but there is experiment. I say that's where the experimentation really started because they started really doing the finishing processes and

Robert (02:00:23):
Playing around with barrels.

And I think anytime you are experimenting that, at least for us in our philosophy is everything we do has come out of respect for tradition. And that tradition is really important in that even though we do all these crazy things, that forms the basis of where you're coming from. And I think that that's what makes kind of the experimentation so much fun, but also that it holds true to what something is and where it came from. Because one of the most beautiful things that I've experienced in the whole distilling world was going down into Armac and talking with some of their distillers there, and definitely up in cognac as well. But going to there, they're very much farmer farmer distilleries. And even most of those guys, they don't actually have a distiller that still gets brought around a wagon. Wow. And there's a distiller. He goes around and distills at everybody's place for Wow.

Creates their product for them. But when you talk to them, the in armac, their primary product is wine. So unlike cognac where they're making cognac armac, most of what they do is production. The Armac is kind of an insurance policy that they about 10% of their crop a year or spec specific vines they set aside for armac production. And then when they have a bad crop here, or when their kids is getting married or somebody breaks their arm, that's when they sell off barrels of armac. And so when you're talking to 'em, they're like, I'm not making armac for me. I'm making it for my children and my grandchildren, just like my grandfather made this for me to sell, to be able to pay for my kids' wedding and do all those things. And to me, they, it's very much, they're a link in the chain. And I think that's the beautiful part about tradition and experimentation, that what we are, where we are in, especially in Texas whiskey right now, we're a link in the chain of what will, what Texas whiskey is going to be. I don't think anybody knows the answer to that yet.

Drew (02:02:30):
Ultimately, and it may just always be diverse. I

Robert (02:02:33):
Kind of hope it does stay

Drew (02:02:34):
Diverse always. It's a big state every time you enter the state and you see that it's 690 miles or whatever to get out of the state on the other side, oh boy. It is a big state. It's a long way to El Paso from

Robert (02:02:49):
What I think they say El Paso's closer to Los Angeles than it is not Austin.

Drew (02:02:55):
Believe me. I lived here for a while. I lived in Dallas Fort Worth for a while, so I definitely understand the vastness of the state. Very good. Well, thank you so much for taking me through some really great whiskeys and giving me some of your background. And

Robert (02:03:13):
Oh, thanks for coming up and visiting and hanging out, letting me get away from real work and drink for a while.

Drew (02:03:19):
Hey, invite me down time. I'll be happy to help you get away from work. That's a good way to do it. Well, thanks so much to Robert for taking the time to sit down, talk about the distillery and their distilling processes and philosophies. And thanks for walking me around the distillery afterward as well. That was definitely fun tasting straight from the barrel. To learn more about Iron Root Republic, all you have to do is go to iron root republic.com. And for more information about whiskey, Lord head to whiskey lore.com. I'm your host, drew Hamish. And until next time, cheers. And Slah Whiskey Lores a production of Travel Fuel's Life, L L C.


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