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Straight Bourbon

Itallbegins

Our straight bourbon is made with #2 yellow dent Texas corn, Texas soft red winter wheat, 6-row distillers malt, our own proprietary strain of yeast that we captured from a Texas pecan (we call it the “Brazos”) and of course, pure Texas water.

No one has ever aged bourbon whiskey in North Texas before, and the impact of our climate shouldn’t be underestimated. The dramatic temperature swings and sustained summer heat make our whiskey interact with our newly charred American white oak barrels in a manner unlike any other. This fact alone will provide our whiskey with a distinct provenance.

One of the advantages of being a craft distiller is our freedom to experiment. As the bourbon matures, we’ll age samples of the whiskey with indigenous Texas woods such as pecan and white oak. Whichever type of wood yields the best and most unique flavors may end up as another F&R expression.

Distillers' Tasting Notes of F&R “White Dog” (off the still) bourbon:

  • Color: Perfectly clear
  • Nose: Floral and fruity, graham cracker and banana
  • Taste: Butterscotch, orange zest, black cherry, very smooth
  • Finish: Fruity, viscous, warm

We barreled our first bourbon whiskey on March 14, 2012. We think our first bottling will occur some time in 2014. Honestly, it’s hard to put an exact date on this, since it has never been done here before. We’ll be checking the barrels each month to determine when the whiskey is ready to harvest.

Making great bourbon isn’t easy, but we wouldn’t
have it any other way

Milling 2

Milling

Milling breaks up the whole cereal grains to improve the penetration of water in the cooking process. The more surface area that’s exposed, the better water and natural enzymes are able to penetrate the kernel.

The F&R Difference

While most bourbon distilleries use a hammer mill, we use a refurbished roller mill. Not only was this 25 year old mill rebuilt from the ground up for us, but we had a metalworker remove the existing roller groove patterns and recut them to our specifications. It may be less efficient than a hammer mill, but it’s also less likely to scorch the grain which can add bitterness or destroy the grain husks (which allows a thick grain cap to form during fermentation, providing significantly more flavor) – so we think it’s worth the effort.

Milling

Mashing

Next we cook the corn, wheat and water at varying temperatures to break down the starches – a process called gelatinization. Once it cools, we add the malted barley, which contains natural enzymes that convert the starches into fermentable sugars through a process called hydrolysis.

The F&R Difference

Grain Bill

Corn: Our grain bill, by law, must contain at least 51 percent corn. At F&R, we use significantly more #2 yellow dent corn than required – all of it grown in the state of Texas. This Texas-grown corn imparts a uniquely sweet character to the bourbon.

Soft Red Winter Wheat: Unlike the spicy rye most bourbons use, we use a soft red winter wheat (also grown right here in Texas), which imparts a slightly sweet and mellow character to the whiskey.

Malted Barley: Sadly, barley doesn’t grow well in the Texas climate. So we source exceptional 6-row distiller’s malt from regions in the midwest U.S., which not only provides natural enzymes but also imparts a smooth character to the whiskey.

Yeast

Yeast Propagation

Yeast carries out the fermentation process (converting sugar to alcohol), and the type of yeast strain contributes significantly to the whiskey’s flavor.

The F&R Difference

Nowadays, all but a select few distilleries around the country buy their yeast in bulk, packaged in a dry form from commercial suppliers. At F&R, we captured a wild yeast strain right here in North Texas and grow a new batch onsite for every fermentation. This wasn’t exactly backyard science. We needed access to sophisticated equipment such as autoclaves and DNA machines. Fortunately, we were allowed access to the lab facilities in TCU’s Department of Biology here in Fort Worth. While at TCU, Rob Arnold, our head distiller, performed DNA analysis, micro-fermentation and organoleptic analysis on the 100+ wild yeast samples we collected around North Texas. Ultimately, the strain that had all the characteristics we wanted, and the one we now use in every batch, was found on the Rancho Hielo Brazos ranch in Somervell County, Texas. As fate would have it, this yeast came from a single nut off the Texas state tree: the pecan. We gave the strain a proper scientific name of RHB-422, but we like to call it the Brazos Strain.

Mashing

Fermentation

During fermentation, the yeast consumes the sugar in the mash and converts it into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Each different yeast strain will also produce an array of congeners (chemicals created by the fermentation process) – some pleasant and some unpleasant, depending on the yeast strain. After three to four days of fermentation, a whiskey mash of 9 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) will be produced with a variety of flavors and aromas.

The F&R Difference

Our work in the lab allowed us to identify a yeast strain with highly pleasant characteristics. We use five traditional open-top fermentation vats, each with a capacity of 1000 gallons. We pitch in our proprietary yeast after the mash has cooled, and allow it to ferment for three to four days depending on our set temperature.

Still

Distillation

The fermented whiskey wash is heated, and vapors rise up through the still and are condensed back into a liquid that becomes the un-aged bourbon whiskey – or white dog.

The F&R Difference

We use all-copper pot stills: copper, because of its ability to conduct heat, resist wear, catalyze fruity ester development in the wash, and remove impurities (plus, copper is just better looking); kettle and column pot stills, because the columns separate the heavier, undesirable compounds from the more delicate and desirable compounds. Throughout a distillation run, different alcohols vaporize at different temperatures. Some of these alcohols (particularly, the ones we call the “heads” and “tails”) have undesirable characteristics. In our case, the hearts is definitely not ultra pure ethanol. It is mainly ethanol, but contains small quantities of other compounds (mainly fusel alcohols, esters, and aldehydes) that give whiskey its unique flavor as compared to a neutral spirit made from the same ingredients. We make all of our cuts manually, by taste and smell, which ensures we capture only the finest spirit cut, for an ultra pure crystal clear white dog with richness and body that will make superb bourbon after a few years of aging in new charred American oak barrels.

Each of our stills can hold 500 gallons of mash, and can each produce 50 gallons of bourbon per run. They are manufactured by Vendome Copper & Brass Works, Inc., a family-owned business based in Louisville, Kentucky. With more than 100 years of experience supplying the major American distilleries, the Vendome coppersmiths are, like us, true craftsmen.

Barrel

Maturation

By law, all straight bourbon whiskey must be aged at least two years in new, charred American white oak barrels. While maturing in the barrel, the white dog picks up all its color and much of its flavor. Charring the inside of the barrel caramelizes the natural wood sugars that will impart body, color and sweet/toasty flavors to the whiskey. It also breaks down the lignin, lipids and tannins in the oak to impart vanilla, spice, oak, coconut and floral flavors and aromas into the whiskey.

The F&R Difference

The barrels we use are traditional 53 gallon bourbon barrels - each being made to our specifications. Before our American white oak staves are made into a barrel, they are naturally aged (or seasoned) outdoors by Mother Nature for a predetermined number of months. Furthermore, we have determined the optimum level of char that we believe offers the most desirable taste characteristics. So, prior to the final barrel hoops being hammered home, our cooperage partner imparts a specific char level to the heads and belly of each F&R barrel prior to shipment.

The key to producing a fully matured and balanced bourbon is temperature fluctuation, which makes our variable climate perfect for the job. In hot temperatures (think Texas summer), the whiskey permeates into the expanded charred oak capillaries, and in colder temperatures, it recedes as the capillaries close, once again passing through the charred layer that adds flavor and removes unwanted chemicals, or off-notes. The more the whiskey flows in and out of the charred oak, the faster it will mature adding character and body. It is this simple phenomenon that allows our bourbon to gain its beautiful caramel-brown color and develop its flavors of vanilla, caramel and brown sugar.

There are a number of large distillers in other parts of the country that age their whiskeys in climate-controlled barns, but we’re happy to let Mother Nature, and tradition, take care of that. The changeable North Texas weather provides an ideal environment for our bourbon to flow in and out of the charred oak. After at least two years of aging, but not until it’s ready, we cut our fully matured bourbon with pure Texas water, and bottle it.