By Father John Rayls
Imagine it’s 1927 and we’re walking Glen Garden Country Club, the second oldest golf course in Fort Worth, Texas. The distant city skyline is visible to the northeast. We notice two caddies jockeying for the lead in the annual Caddies Championship. Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson are 15 year olds and they finish regulation tied. Finishing another 18 hole playoff, Nelson sinks a 30 foot putt to win by one stroke. This is only a part of the history making its presence known at the newest location of the Firestone & Robertson Distilling, now called Whiskey Ranch in Fort Worth. I’m not a big fan of golf, but I have to admit this is an incredibly creative and magnificent concept. The exciting history of this place, including LPGA Tour great Sandra Palmer, cries out for recognition and beckons you in to explore and experience the only whiskey distillery in the world built on a fully functioning 18 hole golf course. In addition, this distillery is now the largest in terms of capacity west of the Mississippi River. Opening their new facility on November 1, 2017, they expect to begin production on site by mid December and to be at full capacity by mid January.
Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson, after several years in the business world working for others, established their distillery in 2010 with their first whiskey appearing in June 2012 and buying the Country Club in 2014. Neither owner comes from a whiskey background or have typical chemistry or agricultural science college degrees. They are simply friends that enjoy drinking good whiskey and are both interested in the details of how its done right. Rob Arnold, Master Distiller, was added soon after now finishing his PhD in essentially Corn Science. “TX Blended Whiskey is the distillery’s proprietary masterpiece, which recently won ‘Best American Craft Whiskey’ and ‘Double Gold’ at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2014”. This is a sourced whiskey (NAS) at 81 Proof that is four to five years old. The owners are very open about getting this whiskey elsewhere, but refuse to divulge the actual source arguing that competitors are always looking to make inroads. TX Straight Bourbon is the newest whiskey coming from F & R and is their own being distilled, aged and bottled at their other location in Fort Worth. It was bottled at 92 Proof and released in December 2016 after aging locally for 4 – 5 years. It is a true “Grain to Glass” bourbon and is definitely not sourced.
As is the case with most Texas distilleries, F & R spent a lot of time in Kentucky trying to understand how to make the best whiskey possible. Maker’s Mark was instrumental in mentoring, demonstrating, coaching and answering a myriad of questions. Their new rickhouse located at Whiskey Ranch was designed and built to look like one of the old Kentucky rickhouses. The exterior is of Pole Barn material with wood throughout the interior. Several others will be added to the single rickhouse now located there. Maker’s grounds are some of the most beautiful in the US. Entering the Whiskey Ranch, a visitor gets some similar vibes only without the verdant lushness because its Texas. It is easily one of the most beautiful distilleries now in existence. It is available for meetings, weddings and special events and a certified mixologist will be available as well. Their products are available in 10 states as they see themselves competing with the “big boys” and not simply positioning themselves against other Texas distilleries. It is surging in popularity and the unique, collectible bottle caps made from cowboy boots add to the mystique. TX Blended Whiskey is available at a suggested retail price of $35 and TX Straight Bourbon at a suggested $45.00.