Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Little Rock Booze Tour, part 1

On Sunday Benjamin and I, along with Donovan, Angel, Taine and George, went on a booze tour that I arranged as a form of local tourism.  We started at Brandon's Rock Town Distillery, with a tour given by Phil Brandon - the founder and owner himself.  They make vodka, gin, and bourbon right near downtown Little Rock.

Bourbon casks, busy aging.
The tour started in the cask-aging room, where casks of bourbon were resting. Our new friend Phil told us all about what makes bourbon bourbon, and not just another kind of whiskey (it's the percent of corn, the amount of alcohol, and the brand new, charred barrels). All of the ingredients have been grown in Arkansas, and the casks were made by a cooper in Hot Springs.

The bourbon isn't going to be ready until January - so we will have to go back for another tour when it is ready.

Mmm, fermenting corn mash.
From the barrel room we moved into the still room. Before everything goes into the barrels, it goes into the still, but before that, the mash has to ferment.  You may notice that the big tub is uncovered - they don't really worry about contamination because all the impurities will be taken out through the distilling process, and alcohol is self-sterilizing, or something like that. (To get the details correctly, you will have to take the tour yourself).

And here is the still. It is a lovely, steampunky contraption made of copper and pipes and tubes. There was some mash inside, waiting to be strained (I think).  There were a lot of technical details about how gin and vodka are made that I don't want to put down because I will just get them wrong. Go on the tour to find out for yourself.

And then it is on to the bottling room, where the bottles are filled by hand, the labels hand written, the stoppers put on the bottles, and the bottles packed into boxes.  After the tour, Phil gave us all tastes of the vodka and gin, but because of the strange laws in Arkansas, he couldn't actually sell any bottles to us. I don't know much about either vodka or gin, but they both had really good flavors, We will be making a trip to the liquor store soon.  It was a great tour, and I would highly recommend it as a destination when you have family or friends to entertain.  The factory is close to the Heifer International building and the Clinton Presidential Center, so you could combine a couple of activities in one afternoon.

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