While a vast majority of Texans still haven't sampled whiskey legally distilled in-state, an owner of Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling in San Antonio believes Texas bourbon could become a nationally recognized category.
"We really believe the concept has legs," Mark McDavid says. "Our goal is to compete with Tennessee whiskey and Kentucky bourbon."
McDavid envisions a Texas whiskey trail, styled after the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and is in the process of reaching out to fellow distillers to discuss collaborative opportunities. Two distilleries in addition to Ranger Creek have announced plans to eventually sell bourbon statewide: Rebecca Creek Distillery in San Antonio and Garrison Brothers Distillery in Hye, which last November took 10 days to sell out a limited-release vintage available only in Blanco and Gillespie counties. Balcones Distilling in Waco has been selling its blue corn whiskeys since 2009.
"There are 24 million Texans, and a lot of them drink bourbon," McDavid says when asked about prospects for the micro-distilling industry.
Rebecca Creek, like many of the nation's start-up craft distilleries, is biding its bourbon-making time by focusing on vodka, an un-aged spirit that doesn't spend years in barrels. Ranger Creek, which opened in September, is pursuing "kind of a different business model" that calls for brewing beer to jump-start the cash flow a new enterprise needs.
"We're not vodka drinkers," McDavid explains.
Ranger Creek is brewing a smoked porter, lager, dark strong ale and oatmeal pale ale, but McDavid is most excited about the distillery's whiskeys. In addition to the rye bourbon, which Ranger Creek hopes to put on Dallas shelves by the fall, the distillery's working on a few experimental products.
"We're planning on using Texas woods in creative ways," McDavid says. "Our focus is on the local aspect."