An introduction to Texas whiskey

From bourbon to rye and single malts, discover the great whiskeys made in Texas.

HOUSTON – Whiskey is one of the most recognized spirits in the world and in the Lone Star State, it's become more and more popular in recent years.

“The craft cocktail movement has surely helped that. It’s an ever increasing popular spirit and you are seeing it more in bars and different cocktails being made from it and you are also seeing a whole lot more appreciation,” said Jake Clements, co-founder of the Texas Whiskey Festival, who stopped by our studio to school us on Texas-based whiskeys.

According to Clements, Andalusia Whiskey, a distillery from Blanco, Texas, that’s only been in business for three years, is getting great recognition for their single malt, which is one of the three styles of whiskeys being made grain-to-glass in Texas.

“Scotch typically has a little bit of smokiness to it, which comes from peat, but we are not in Scotland. So it is Scotch if we were in Scotland, but here it’s just called single malt. So what they did a little bit different was they smoked their malt with mesquite, oak, apple wood, think Texas barbecue, so that is what you are going to get in the nose,” Clements said.

Rye is a different grain and another style of whiskey being made in our state.

“Rye is the original American whiskey. Traditionally, you get some bitterness to it, herbal, grassy, but Balcones out of Waco did a little bit different. So it’s a 100 percent rye with some maltedd chocolate rises in it. In the nose and in the taste, you get a little bit of chocolate and espresso in it,” said Clements, who also explained the secrets of one of the most popular spirits out of Texas distilleries, bourbon.  

“All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. Bourbon just needs to be distilled in the United States; it can be distilled anywhere and Texas is doing something a little unique... Garrison Brothers is using Texas-grown corn, wheat and barley in this, aged in two different barrels. They are located in Hye, Texas, but you can find them in any liquor store in our state,” said Clements, who encouraged all whiskey lovers to taste these spirits and to visit the Texas Whiskey Festival happening April 19 in Austin.

“We have 22 distilleries, featuring 50-plus Texas whiskeys for people to come out and try and they are all Texas-based,” he said.