I read about the new whiskeys from Herman Marshall back in July, and I've been on the hunt ever since. Maybe I should have been more diligent -- it is whiskey after all -- but every bar I checked didn't have it. When I called bars that were listed in articles about the whiskey, they said they hadn't gotten it yet. I was having bad luck. It was a full month later when I was eating at FT33 and I serendipitously saw a bottle perched behind the bar.
Dallas has plenty of local beer. They have a few restaurants that do a good job of embracing local ingredients, too. Whiskey, however, was a sore spot in the locavore movement. The closet option with any weight had been Balcones, way down in Waco.
Dallas Distilleries makes the Herman Marshal bourbon in their facility on Sheppard Drive in Garland. They've also got a rye whiskey and a single malt. I've only tasted the bourbon so far, but I plan on trying them all because: whiskey. But also because the bourbon was outstanding.
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I said before when I sampled the Balcones single-malt whiskey, I have a big aversion to sweetness in spirits. Most bourbons carry some sweetness derived from the barrel it's aged in, or -- as is the case with some mass-produced whiskeys -- artificial additives. But the Herman Marshall bourbon wasn't sweet at all. It was almost peppery. It still had some of those caramel and vanilla tones you associate with all bourbons, but those flavors were more of something you sensed with your nose as opposed to your palate. Distiller Herman Beckley says that's by design.
Beckley told me there are a number of factors that keep his bourbon from tasting like maple syrup. He uses only two grains, corn and barley, to make the bourbon, and he ages the spirit in new white oak barrels. Beckley said the lack of sweetness wasn't a specific goal when he designed the bourbon, but it's a characteristic inherent in his process, which is modeled after the process used by whiskey distillers in Scotland.
Whatever Breaking Bad chemistry that guy is up to, his bourbon is excellent, and I'm not the only one to think so. Dallas Distilleries recently won a silver medal award for the spirit -- right behind Balcones.
If you want to learn more, they're having a tasting and bottle signing at Sigel's at 15003 Inwood Road this Saturday, August 10, from 1 to 4 p.m. And the list of bars carrying the spirit is growing quickly.