Firestone and Robertson Distillery Tour - June 07, 2014

By Stephanie

I had spent two weeks anticipating our trip to the Firestone and Robertson Distillery. This place sells out weeks in advance, and because of the heat, is about to stop tours for several months. Really, this was one of our last chances until fall to go and see our local Ft Worth distillery.

We arrived at the distillery two hours early. My husband underestimated the efficiency of mechanics at German dealerships. So, after eating and an hour of wandering around Ft Worth aimlessly attempting to kill time, we finally wandered back to the distillery. The building is easily missed. It is situated in the older industrial part of downtown. The building was erected in 1927 for a shipping company and lay dormant since the late 1970's. This is not the bustling part of downtown, but for an operation that requires exceptional patience, this is very fitting.

We were greeted by an exceptionally nice cashier who happened to stuck outside waiting for the boss to open the door and let her in. I suppose it could be worse. It was only 90F degrees today, instead of 110F. But luckily we didn't have to wait for long before the Master Distiller opened the door.The lounge area is very warm and inviting. Based on the stories of the tour guide, the owners spent many months attempting to kill themselves in Texas heat to give us this beautiful interior. Pieces of walls which were ripped down have been converted into tables, desks, display shelves, and anything else you can imagine. An old vault is now a sitting area. Each window and door is original to the building.

Firestone and Robertson Distillery Bar and Lounge Area

Before the tour, it is advised every takes a glass of water. Due to the nature of aging, the main floor is not climate controlled so in summer and things become very stifling. When the tour officially begins, you step across an old scale (also original) into a large warehouse filled with barrels and equipment. The tour guide hops in a wooden table and gives us a quick description into the intricacies of bourbon whiskey. This whole tour is basically Whiskey 101 but really, who cares?

The bouron in this warehouse has been asleep for 3 years already this summer. This is one year longer than the legal minimum time allowed for bourbon. Alas, the tour guide sampled the whiskey just this morning, and it was unanimously decided that it needed to go back to bed for another year before they were ready to release it to the general public.

Onwards across the warehouse floor is a mash tub. The guide explains to us that there are many things which make this particular whiskey unique. First off, the practice of finding wild yeast and cultivating it fell out of favor since the time of prohibition. F&R uses yeast taken from pecan trees, the official state tree of Texas. Secondly, the yeast and the corn are both grown locally. The barley is from out of state. It seems that some plants just don't like the drought and sweltering heat. Strangely, the water is taken from the Trinity River. I guess if you take out the bodies the water doesn't taste too bad.... Or maybe I will reserve judgement until I taste the bourbon myself.

Mash Tub

The distillery is looking to purchase more property elsewhere as they are starting to expand. It is good timing, too, as the floor is filling to the brim with whiskey and bourbon barrels. I can't complain, though. I like to see people this passionate about their craft successful enough to grow. Until then, parts of the warehouse seem a little cramped as distribution boxes are crammed next to the barrels, waiting for a truck to come and move them to local stores.

Up in the loft is a large line of bourbon barrels. These are the oldest, I believe, since the numbers are sub 100 on many of them. Looking over the railing you see the fermenting tanks. They are left open to keep the process as simple as possible. Contamination is limited by a grain cap about a foot thick, and the fact that the percentage alcohol is more than high enough to kill just about anything alive.

Cutting Through the Grain Cap

Back downstairs to the two large copper distillation tanks. These are custom make fractional distillation columns. Each port hole lets you view into another collection plate. At the top of the condensor, vapor goes over and is cooled back into a liquid. From there, the liquid is moved into another drum where the acetone/ethanol mixture is rolled off before the moonshine portion starts to flow through. Each thousand gallon batch of fermented material yields approximately enough moonshine for 2 barrels, with a small bit left over. The smell inside the tank was blissful. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough in the bottom to warrant a tiny taste.

At the end, back at the bar, we were given a small sample of the TX. The bourbon is still kept tightly under lock and key until they are ready for distribution. I'm very excited to try their new products. They take us back to a time where whisky was largely a part of where you are from and they have given their best effort to make something that is iconically Ft Worth, TX.

See more photos from our adventure here

Shots of TX Blended Whiskey

TX Blended Whiskey

Firestone and Robertson TX Blended Whiskey

Aged: Unknown
Nose: Strong pure vanilla
Body: Surprising sweet. More vanilla, this time ligthly infused with caramel.
Finish: Warm roasted marshmallows.
Activation: Muddles flavors while exposing little. Do not recommend.
Notes: This is the first American whiskey I have formally reviewed, hailing from none other than Fort Worth, Texas. It is crisp and clean like a highland malt might be, but as you might expect, more forward and straight-laced in its flavoring. TX Blended is easy to drink, and a solid opening move for American whiskies.