Jan 08, 2018 09:43AM
● By Maleesa Johnson
After a cocktail napkin’s worth of research, Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson realized they were on to something. Texas was the second-largest whiskey consuming state in the union, and if Tito’s handmade was any foreshadowing, it was clear the Lone Star State was thirsty for a whiskey brand to call its own. The year was 2010, the heyday of the local craft beer movement, and Tony Soprano’s single malt Sunday night tradition had firmly given way to Don Draper’s old-fashioned.
The world, and by world we mean Texas, was deeply in love with whiskey.
So too were Firestone and Robertson (F&R), and they set to work revitalizing a pre-prohibition warehouse just south of downtown Fort Worth. The duo released its TX Blended Whiskey in June of 2012 and promptly brought “Best American Craft Whiskey” honors to Fort Worth. Bravado and big steaks met their perfect complement.
The initial success of F&R’s blended whiskey gave the budding bourbon-aires exactly what they needed—time. Five-years time, in fact, for the yellow dent Texas corn, red winter wheat and their proprietary Texan pecan yeast strain to properly age.
In December of 2016, hundreds braved the elements to wait in line at the Fort Worth distillery to be among the first to purchase a bottle of their long-anticipated TX Straight Bourbon. Many left cold, and unfortunately, empty-handed. Demand was already exceeding supply.
The founders saw this coming and had already begun searching for a new home for an expanded distilling operation. What they found was a picturesque tract with views of the Fort Worth skyline – a mere five miles from the original distillery on Vickery Boulevard. And what they’ve built is nothing short of a Whiskey Wonderland.
The upstart Texas distillery blended with Fort Worth tradition and assembled their new home on 112-acres of the former Glen Garden Country Club. Officially open for tours, private events—and yes, distilling— Whiskey Ranch now sits on the hallowed grounds where legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson once honed their golf games. The 18-hole course, which has been updated ever so slightly to artfully accommodate an immersive whiskey experience, is still functioning. The country’s only golf course situated on a working distillery will be open for private and charitable events—an example of the many ways the owners plan to maintain the distillery as a true Fort Worth destination.
Upon arrival, guests are whisked past the security shed and led across manicured grounds to the Ranch House. The heart of the operation, the Ranch House brings together the warm elements of replica oak barrel walls, and cowhide chairs offset by gleaming metals and sealed concrete floors that immediately welcome visitors to this rustic yet modern environ.
Private event guests or those enjoying one of the now daily public tours can—and should—partake in a tasting or signature drink at the Tavern. From there, make your way through the breezeway to enjoy the floor-to-ceiling tiered rock fireplace of the Oak Room which can accommodate up to 180 guests for any type of private gathering.
Drink in hand, take a step outside to the wrap around back porch and enjoy views overlooking the golf course, Benders Lake and the expanse of the Forth Worth skyline to the North. The space is so peaceful it’s hard to believe you’re standing only a few hundred yards from a 45-feet-tall column still that can produce 40 barrels per day. That’s more than 12 times their previous Vickery Road production and enough to lay claim as the largest distillery this side of the Mississippi River.
Opposite the golf course stands the non-descript expanse of the property’s first of five barrel barns. Each barrel barn can hold 20,000 barrels (1 barrel can age 240 bottles worth of bourbon) for approximately five years as the bourbon ages. The barn is not climate controlled as to take advantage of the true Texas weather during the aging process. The effects of the hot Texas climate after years of aging in oak barrels brings forth bold aromas of rich oak, caramel, cinnamon and allspice.
The property and the tour come back full circle to the gift shop where the TX Whiskey and Bourbon faithful can show their brand loyalty on anything from hats, shirts and drinkware to a wide variety of Texas-themed merchandise.
In less than a decade’s time, Firestone and Robertson Distillery has built a reputation for smooth and sought-after whiskeys in addition to not one but two distinct local landmarks. Both whiskeys are available in Texas and in a growing number of states throughout the U.S.—but a trek to Whiskey Ranch is a must for any self-respecting bourbonite.
2601 Whiskey Ranch Road Ft. Worth