The Spirits of the Season
By June Naylor
Wild about whiskey? Bullish on bourbon? You’re in luck. This season’s new “crop” offers several homegrown varieties.
A homegrown bounty of new arrivals awaits fans of brown spirits. Several worth sampling include Still Austin Whiskey Co.’s flagship straight bourbon, made in Austin with all-Texas grains. From Waco, Balcones Distilling released its Lineage Texas Single Malt, made with barley from Texas and Scotland. In Blanco, Milam & Greene debuted its first limited edition, grain-to-glass bourbon to kick off its Hill Country Whiskey Series.
Among a trio of perfect-for-fall sippers, Garrison Brothers offers the 2020 release of its Cowboy Bourbon. Known for its uncut, unfiltered sweet mash that delivers a 133.9-proof punch at 66.95 percent alcohol by volume, it’s what the master distiller calls the distillery’s crown jewel. You’ll want to wrap up in a favorite sweater next to the fire pit and enjoy this one neat — the best way to savor the chestnut-colored liquid’s caramel, toasted honey and plum notes. Available online and in liquor stores, $199.
At long last, Fort Worth’s own Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. introduces TX Experimental Rye, the initial offering in a special series and the third spirit to follow the distillery’s blended whiskey and bourbon products. Made of 100 percent rye — as opposed to rye plus other grains — its deep auburn hue and mix of cinnamon, clove, spicy fruit, chocolate and caramel flavors make it an ideal autumn pour. It’s available only in a 375-milliliter bottle, $49.99, exclusively at the distillery via curbside pickup. Some ticketed events begin in October. For updates, follow on facebook.com/TXWhiskey or visit frdistilling.com.
A newish hybrid, the Kentucky-Texas bourbon called Longbranch wins us over with a velvet-smooth fullness. The backstory? It’s the result of a collaboration between Wild Turkey’s master distiller Eddie Russell and Austinite/actor Matthew McConaughey, a bourbon lover whose parents met at the University of Kentucky before raising a family in Longview, Texas.
The small-batch bourbon is filtered first through white oak and then Texas mesquite charcoal, the latter imparting a sweet, slightly smoky effect. Already an award winner, the vividly golden spirit is excellent simply over a single cube of ice, and it’s just right also for this cool-weather cocktail that adds elements of maple and apple to the mix. Available in liquor stores, $39.99.
Artisanal maple syrup provides the light touch that is key to the success of this cocktail. Look for pure maple varieties with barrel aging, such as Runamok from Vermont (try the Pecan Wood variety, with hints of smoke and caramel) and Bushwick Kitchen’s Trees Knees Spicy Maple syrup (warmed with habanero), both found at Central Market stores.
- ¾ cup bourbon
- ¼ cup apple cider
- 1 tablespoon pure artisanal maple syrup
- 6 shakes orange bitters
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- Ice cubes
- 1 thin slice Gala, Fuji or Honeycrisp apple
In a shaker, combine bourbon, cider, maple syrup, bitters, cinnamon and ice cubes.
Cover and shake for at least 30 seconds to combine and thoroughly chill the mixture.
Strain into two short glasses; serve over a single large ice cube in each, if you like. Cut the full apple slice in half to garnish glass rims.