T for Texas. T for Tennessee. Both states are now making some pretty fine whiskey and other spirits. I already told you about Waco's Balcones Distillery, Whisky Magazine's Craft Whiskey Distiller of the Year. Now they have been joined by a strong new player, Bone Spirits working out of Smithville, Texas, just outside of Austin.
Bone is the brainchild of Jeff Peace, a long-time spirits industry veteran. Peace earned his spurs working with Sidney Frank the branding genius who brought Jagermeister and Grey Goose to America. After Mr. Frank passed away, Peace decided to make the leap and start his own brand of spirits. Bone is still relatively young, having started up in 2010, but they are already making some great hooch.
Emphasizing a "farm to bottle" philosophy, Bone Spirits is committed to maintaining a sustainable processes, an attitude that is quite popular in the hill country of Texas. They buy their grains as locally as possible and have them milled at a nearby facility. After fermenting and distilling their products, they return the by-products of the process to a local cattle rancher who feeds the mash to some very happy cows.
Their four spirits products are grouped into two families, whiskeys and white liquors. Fitch's Goat Moonshine is an 87 proof white whiskey that is triple distilled into a buttery smooth spirit. The peppery nature of Fitch's Goat makes it an excellent base to a Whiskey Sour made from fresh-squeezed lemon and lime. After aging the Goat in a combination of small and large barrels, the resulting Fitch's Gold 100 percent corn whiskey has a surprisingly deep amber color after just a short time in oak. In fact, when Peace first saw the liquor emerge from five-gallon casks, he made the decision to blend it with another batch from larger barrels so that consumers wouldn't wonder about the unfamiliar dark shade. This blend proved to be a complex whiskey with strong elements of vanilla and almond, as well as hints of cinnamon. For such a young small-batch product, it really is a remarkable whiskey, although it is quite different from Kentucky bourbons due to its absence of wheat or rye.
On the clear side, Bone Spirits makes a very nice column-distilled vodka which they call Smith's. At a price point below that other famous Texas vodka, Tito's, Smith's is great drunk straight up or as the base for a memorable vodka and tonic. Their latest release is Moody June Gin, made from the same base as their vodka. Most consumers don't realize that a huge percentage of the base spirit for popular vodkas and gins are made by a few huge manufacturers, often in the same giant still that make ethanol for your automobile. Bone's commitment to hand-crafting their products especially shows through in Moody June.
The small work force at Bone Spirits actually zested bushel after bushel of lemons, and gathered native Texan Juniper to use as aromatics in this very flavorful gin. The citrus and juniper are prevalent in the aromas and first taste, but not in the overwrought, slightly artificial way of Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire. Moody June makes a great martini or a gimlet with just a squeeze of lime.
All Bone products should now be available in local liquor stores by now and make for an interesting addition to your home liquor cabinet. Try some soon and let me know what you think in the comments.