By Father John Rayls
Imagine it’s 1927 and we’re walking the grounds of the Glen Garden Country Club, the second oldest golf course in Fort Worth, Texas. The distant city skyline is visible to the northeast, and a pair of teen-aged caddies, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, jockey for the lead in the annual Caddies Championship. They tie.
This is only a part of the history making its presence known at the newest location of the Firestone & Robertson Distilling (F&R), now called Whiskey Ranch in Fort Worth. I’m not a big fan of golf, but I have to admit this is a magnificent concept. The exciting sporting history of this place, one that includes 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.
Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson, after several years spent working for others, established their company in 2010, with their first whiskey appearing in June 2012 and buying Glen Garden in 2014. Neither owner comes from a whiskey background or have a chemistry degrees, but that is a familiar story among so many of the new distilleries that have arisen these last several years, however counter-intuitive it might be. Instead, 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, and is now finishing his PhD in (essentially) corn science.
As is the case with many Texas distilleries, F&R spent a lot of time in Kentucky trying to understand how to make the best whiskey possible. They indicate that Maker’s Mark in particular was instrumental in mentoring, demonstrating, coaching and answering a myriad of questions.
The new ranch distillery is now the largest (in terms of capacity) west of the Mississippi River. The plant, with its Vendome-made copper, is now operational, and is expected to reach full operating capacity by mid-January. 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. More rickhouses will be added to meet F&R’s storage demands.
The golf course setting and ranch-inspired sense of design are sure to pay off for the place as more visitors find it. One gets some vibes similar to the lovely grounds of Maker’s Mark, only without the verdant lushness (because it is Texas). I rate it as one of the most beautiful distilleries now in America. As with virtually any distillery these days that has the size to support it, the facility is available for meetings, weddings and special events, with a certified mixologist on call.
TX Blended Whiskey is the distillery’s garlanded flagship, a sourced and NAS (averaging four or five years old) whiskey bottled at 81 proof. Who makes the stock behind TX Blended Whiskey is a secret, as Firestone & Robertson are concerned about imitation. TX Straight Bourbon is their latest whiskey, an in-house product distilled, aged and bottled at their other, original location in Fort Worth. It is bottled at 92 proof and was released in December 2016, also an NAS with an average aging of four to five years. TX Blended Whiskey is available at a suggested retail price of $35 and TX Straight Bourbon at a suggested $49.99