We all love to enjoy Texas-made spirits at the bar or from home with friends and family. But why not enjoy them straight from the source? Many distilleries across the state allow visitors in for tours and tastings. Here are some of the best distilleries to visit in Texas.
Lone Star and Shiner Bock might rule the Lone Star beer scene, but have you heard about Texas spirits?
To see the largest still (an apparatus that’s used to distill alcoholic mixtures) west of the Mississippi—and sample some fantastic whiskey and bourbon—check out Whiskey Ranch in Fort Worth, home to Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. The distillery produces TX Whiskey and TX Bourbon at the facility, and small group tours are available to give an inside look into how the liquors are made and bottled. Whiskey Ranch is a gorgeous place to spend the afternoon, as it sits on an 18-hole golf course and has views of downtown Fort Worth, a large fire pit with outdoor seating, and plenty of room to spread out. Smooth whiskey cocktails are served at the bar, and a back patio behind the bar offers a deck with seating and cornhole. For a souvenir, the gift shop offers take-home goodies like apparel, insulated mugs, stickers, and, obviously, whiskey and bourbon. It’s best to check the website to see when tours are scheduled.
San Luis Spirits, the makers of Dripping Springs vodka and gin, is located in Dripping Springs, Texas, in the Texas Hill Country, and offers some of the best vodka and gin in the state. Dripping Springs Vodka and Texas Orange Vodka are micro-distilled 20 times in small 50-gallon batches, then mixed with pure, mineral-rich artesian spring water from the Texas Hill Country before a final clarifying filtration through Swedish-activated charcoal. The Texas Orange Vodka is made with hand-zested Texas oranges, and after the oranges are zested, the actual fruit is donated to the Austin Zoo. Dripping Springs Artisan and Traditional gins are made in small 40-gallon batches and incorporate citrus from the Texas Rio Grande Valley and southwestern flavors. The on-site tasting room is open six days a week, and specialty cocktails are available on Saturdays. Tours are offered Thursday through Saturday and include a tasting and souvenir shot glass. Tour tickets must be purchased in advance and attendants must be 21 and up.
Since 2009, Balcones Distilling has been making craft whiskeys in Waco, Texas from top-notch ingredients like New Mexican blue corn and the first Texas-grown malted barley. Visitors can tour the complex and partake in a walk through the distillery with discussions about the whiskey-making process and views of the copper stills from Scotland. Afterwards, taste Balcones’ authentic whiskeys in the on-site tasting room, and use the tips you learned on the tour to sniff out different flavor profiles in a tasting flight, dram, or one of the rotating cocktails. Be sure to check out the gift shop before leaving and pick up Balcones merchandise like apparel, glassware, and available whiskeys. Hint: Buy a flight in the tasting room, as each flight purchase receives $10 off one bottle of whiskey. It’s recommended to book tours in advance, as time slots fill up, so check the website before going.
Deep in the Texas Hill Country is a little place called Hye, Texas, and it’s here that you’ll find some of the best bourbon in the country. Garrison Brothers Distillery makes various types of bourbon at the distillery, and offers tours that are slightly different than most. Visitors ride through the property on an open-air, bench-lined trailer pulled behind a Jeep, from the cabin gift shop and tasting room, up a hill to the cookhouse and distillery. Along the way, the guide describes the production process, and guests get to taste the mash, the bitter distiller’s beer, and tour the Stillhouse. Guests also get to try the “white dog,” or spirit straight from the still—which is extremely high in alcohol content—and wander through the barrel barn to sample the latest limited release. Tours are available Wednesdays through Sundays, and can be booked online in advance. The distillery is closed on select holidays, so check the website before visiting. Don’t leave without buying a bottle of the Private Cask—a single-barrel bourbon whiskey that you can bottle yourself at the distillery.
In North Texas, vodka is getting a tasty spin at Western Son Distillery, located in Pilot Point. Western Son makes flavored vodkas that are great for sipping straight over ice or mixed up with other ingredients for delicious, fruity cocktails. The distillery focuses on small-batch, gluten-free vodkas and currently has nine flavors, including blueberry, prickly pear, watermelon, cucumber, lime, peach, and grapefruit. Western Son also makes two types of gin and even makes whiskey. Distillery tours and tastings are available on Saturdays, and select Saturdays offer on-site concerts from top country artists like Shooter Jennings, Tracy Byrd, Jack Ingram, and Roger Creager. Tour and concert tickets can be purchased in advance online, and special cocktail recipes are available online, too.
Based in San Antonio, Rebecca Creek Distillery makes whiskey and vodka and is one of the largest artisan spirit producers in the region. The distillery boasts a 1,000-gallon, custom-built, German-made Christian Carl copper pot still, which visitors can see on a tour. Basic tours are available for groups of nine or less for free, and private tours with larger groups cost a small fee. Tours are available Thursday through Sunday, and come with a sampling in the tasting room. Cocktails are also whipped up in the tasting room, and other weekly events include trivia night on Wednesdays, steak and open-mic night on Thursdays, karaoke and happy hour on Fridays, and live music on Saturdays. A gift shop is also available, and tours can be booked online in advance.