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Bourbon is America’s official spirit, as recognized by Congress in 1964. To be considered bourbon, a distillate must be made on American soil with a minimum of 51 percent corn and aged in charred new white oak barrels. There are other requirements which can help you pass a pub quiz, including the fact that barrels can only be used once for aging bourbon—but don’t fret about waste, since used bourbon barrels are typically reused by the wine, beer, rum, Scotch, and other industries.
Although 95 percent of all bourbon produced is made in Kentucky, bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. Bourbon is surging in popularity. In 2018 alone, more than 24 million nine-liter cases of American whiskey were sold, which generated $3.6 billion in revenue. Texas was no exception: The Lone Star state was home to 127 distilleries in 2018, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, as declared by Congress in 2007. It’s a celebration of the history, tradition, and contribution of the nation’s bourbon industry. Raise a glass to America’s native spirit at any or all of these North Texas distilleries, all of which offer guided tours and tastings. Now, thanks to Texas Senate Bill 905, each visitor can buy up to two 750 ml bottles at a Texas distillery. Cheers!
Acre Distilling Co.
The award-winning Acre distillery, located in downtown Fort Worth, uses grains grown in the Texas Panhandle: white corn, rye, wheat, and barley. The barley and rye are malted at TexMalt in Fort Worth. Acre makes over 20 products including different types of whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, and other flavored products.
The Tour + Tasting takes place at the Distiller’s Table on the production floor. Visitors taste seven spirits produced on site. The experience takes between 35 and 40 minutes at $15 plus tax per person. Each guest receives an Acre whiskey glass and 15 percent discount on purchases made on site.
The infamous neighborhood where the distillery sits, and from which it took the name, used to be called Hell’s Half Acre, or The Acre, and was Fort Worth’s red-light district. It started at the city’s heyday as a drover’s stop on the cattle trails after the Civil War.
Photo Credit: Acre Distilling
Ironroot Republic sources 95 percent of its grain from within 60 miles of the distillery. Distilling, barreling, and bottling is all done on site.
The distillery tour takes about one hour and is followed by a tasting. Visitors can learn about the entire process, anything from how heirloom grains are selected to maturation techniques. The tours take place every Saturday at 1 p.m. and cost $5 per person.
The Likarish brothers, founders of Ironroot, take pride in their approach to making bourbon. They are especially influenced by the Armagnac-making techniques and the Cognac makers’ elevage process, which entails tracking flavor peaks and valleys in each barrel to find the right balance.
Ironroot is about 10 minutes away from the town of Denison, an important 19th century commercial center and stop on the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT).
Photo credit: Ironroot Republic
Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co.
Firestone & Robertson is the first craft distillery in North Texas and was founded by two friends who are passionate about whiskeys and old-fashioned craftsmanship. The distillery sits on an extensive property with splendid views of Fort Worth.
F&R use yellow dent corn and soft red winter wheat exclusively from one Hill Country farm. Together, they also developed high-quality Texas barley, which means that the flavors are exclusive to Texas and the distillery. The proprietary strain of yeast used was developed by the Master Distiller off a pecan nut from a ranch in nearby Glen Rose.
Visitors get a first-hand look at the process behind making whiskey and bourbon. The tour includes a 45-foot copper column still and a custom-made copper doubler with windows. After the tour, go to the TX Tavern for a guided sampling.
If you buy a bottle, you’ll be taking a piece of Texana with you. The caps are made with leather scraps sourced from local bootmakers, a nod to local culture.
Photo Credit: Rachel Ayotte
Lewisville is home to Witherspoon Distillery, which offers a tasting hall, lounge, and outdoor whiskey garden. It makes 100 proof, single-barrel bourbon with a high corn mash bill; the producers recommend sipping this whiskey neat. Witherspoon sources its grain from MBS Seed in Denton.
Witherspoon offers two guided tours on Fridays and five on Saturdays. During the visit, the history of distilling is discussed as well as the history of the distillery and the processes used for making these spirits.
Witherspoon’s flagship spirit is the Single Barrel Bourbon. A limited-edition single malt is also produced in small batches. The Double Cask Project is a limited-release bourbon series finished in port casks from Portugal and sherry casks from Spain. The full bodied, powerful flavors balance out the smoothness and sweetness of the corn-heavy bourbon.
Photo Credit: Witherspoon Distillery
Here are some more off-the-beaten path distilleries around the U.S.A., all offering guided tours and tastings:
Three Oaks, Michigan – Journeyman Distillery makes a Featherbone Bourbon Whiskey that’s certified kosher and organic.
Plan A Trip
It’s easy to keep busy in Dallas, Texas. Here are just a few ideas…
Enjoy live music and line dancing at two traditional honkytonks. Adair’s Saloon in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood serves up beer and burgers with a side of live music every night. Fort Worth’s famous Billy Bob’s offers two-step and line dancing lessons, live country and classic rock music, and even bull riding.
Texas is known, among other things, for its barbeque, and Dallas has her fair share of good restaurants. If you have time for just one, let it be Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum. The marbled brisket, slow cooked over mesquite, dissolves in your mouth.
The Bishop Arts District is a thriving foodie and shopping district in south Dallas. Artsy boutiques and trendy restaurants gave a new lease on life to the former warehouse district built in the 1920s and 1930s.
Did you know that the frozen margarita was invented in Dallas? Kick off an evening out with a margarita and a bowl of creamy, spicy queso. Follow up with some Tex-Mex and Mexican favorites like enchiladas, tacos al pastor or fajitas. Mesero, Meso Maya, Taquería La Ventana and El Bolero are all good options.
Ana Astri-O’ Reilly
Ana Astri-O’Reilly is a fully bilingual travel blogger and writer originally from Argentina. She now lives in Dallas, Texas, USA. Besides writing on her travel blogs, Ana Travels and Apuntes Ideas Imagenes, Ana has published travel and food articles in a variety of outlets.