Is Bourbon Really Bourbon if it is Made in Fort Worth?

Do you know the difference between whiskey and bourbon? Do you know if a bourbon made in Fort Worth is really a bourbon or just a whiskey?

Consider this situation: Yesterday afternoon at 3:51PM, Jasper Russo, Director of Wine Marketing at Sigel’s, sent out an email. Subject line: Introducing TX Blended Whiskey from F&R Distillery in Fort Worth, TX. Opening line: “Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson have joined their passion and vision to produce distinct premium Texas whiskey from the only artisanal bourbon distillery in North Texas.”

I received another email from Russo at 4:20PM. Subject line: Bourbon controversy.Content: As soon as my email about Firestone & Robertson TX Whiskey hit, I was inundated with complaints from customers crying foul and telling me that Bourbon was not Bourbon unless it was made in Bourbon County, Kentucky. While my Spirits Buyer (Andy Hubbard) assured me that this was not the case, I went to Wikipedia for backup. (Really, Jasper? Don’t you have Jim Beam’s cell number?) Bonus content: Bourbon trivia from Andy- Jack Daniels cannot be labeled as Bourbon, not because it is made in Tennessee, but rather because it is filtered through charcoal.

I’ve heard bourbon referred to as whiskey and whiskey called bourbon. Correct me if I’m wrong: bourbon is classified as a whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. My heavens, drinking brown is so complicated. Go white!

Jump for the info on the small-batch whiskey from the only artisanal bourbon distillery in Texas.

Firestone & Robertson Distillery, Fort Worth

Introductory Sale $34.99  reg $39.99 in Sigel’s & Oasis stores today

Available for the first time – limited production

“We’re against mass production, shortcuts and prohibition.”

Leonard Firestone & Troy Robertson, distillers

Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson have joined their passion and vision to produce distinct premium Texas whiskey from the only artisanal bourbon distillery in North Texas. Located in a historic 1927 vintage warehouse near Fort Worth’s Hell’s Half Acre, F&R whiskeys are being created in 500 gallon copper pot stills, and matured in new 53 gallon charred American oak barrels. The work is both artistic and scientific, with each step done by hand without the assistance of automation. The result offers consumers a unique Texas whiskey expression both innovative and timeless. Each bottle of whiskey is capped with a handmade bottle top that is adorned with a unique piece of boot leather donated by friends and business associates in the community. Lizard, alligator, buffalo or cowhide –  no two bottle tops are the same.

Deep auburn color, with a fragrant nose of Vanilla Bean, Oak and Pear leading to intense flavors of Honey Butter, Bananas Foster, Caramel and Coffee on the palate. The long, silky finish is smooth and complex, with a touch of sweet fruit and spice. Perfect for sipping, neat or on the rocks, and for classic cocktails recipes.

Sale prices good through 6/9.

9 comments on “Is Bourbon Really Bourbon if it is Made in Fort Worth?

  1. For starters… using Wikipedia as a the definitive answer for settling a dispute is a dangerous practice. Would you turn to the guy sacking your groceries and consider his word final? If not, are you aware he may be the editor of the Wikipedia category you’re using as gospel?

    But on-topic… notwithstanding any edict by the US Congress, who are more likely to sample the product while working than be knowledgeable of its origin… Bourbon is produced in Kentucky. Similar products produced outside KY are Whiskey. Doesn’t make them bad, just doesn’t make them Bourbon. Would it really be Scotch if it was produced in Latvia?

  2. I guess it depends on who you ask. The Wikipedia article refers to the specific section of the U.S. code of federal regulations criteria, (51% corn mash, etc.). However, generally speaking, the distinguishing characteristic of bourbon is that it is aged in charred new american oak. Mash content, aging time, etc. all tend to vary greatly. Despite Rob’s conclusion that Bourdon is made in Kentucky, origin is not even mentioned as a factor in the U.S. government’s criteria. But if you consider his unsupported conclusion as the definitive authority, go for it. However, in the same way that “Champagne” in France must originate from the region of the same name, sparkling wine produced prior to 2006 (when the US adopted the french restriction) in the U.S. can be sold “champagne.”
    Most unrestricted sparkling wine producers in the U.S. still respect the french laws, and elect to call the wine something else. I suspect it’s because they know the grapes from Champage are far superior. If corn or oak were any better in Kentucky than elsewhere, americans and american law might restrict their definition of bourbon to that which is produced in KY. But I haven’t heard anyone make that claim.

  3. Nancy,

    Just read your article and thought I might chime in. It’s a common misperception that Bourbon must be made in Bourbon county – or in Kentucky for that matter – to be a bourbon. According to Federal (TTB) regulations, which we know quite well due to the fact that we had to submit a 220 page application – part of which detailed the products we will produce – Bourbon can be made anywhere in the US. Federal requirements for Bourbon based on standards of identity rules are: a bourbon must be made with at least 51% corn, be aged for some period of time in new, charred oak, barrels, distilled no higher than 160 proof, be put into the barrel at no higher than 125 proof, and be bottled at 80 proof or higher. To be called a straight bourbon the aforementioned criteria must be met in addition to aging the bourbon in a barrel for at least two years. If your readers are interested in learning more specific detail about the rules and regs here is a link to the code of Federal regulations:

    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr;sid=302dbc6a2719c15635ba22caa48cc631;rgn=div6;view=text;node=27%3A1.0.1.1.3.3;idno=27;cc=ecfr

    Your readers may also find this interesting: Bourbon County, is now a relatively small county which was once a much larger geographic area. The county was established as part of Virginia in 1785, and was comprised of what are now thirty-four modern Kentucky counties. It was originally part of the French province of Louisiana, then after 1763 became part of Virginia, but was transferred to the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1792. Given its original size there were a number of distilleries in the county, and bourbon did get its name from the area as a result, but, to our knowledge, there are no active distilleries in Bourbon County today.

    I hope this provides some additional clarity and helps your readers better understand this issue. It’s an important question.

    Bring on the North Texas Bourbon!!

    Leonard Firestone – F&R Distilling Co

  4. Nancy and Leonard,

    Thanks for all the clarification (or perhaps I should say confusion).

    But let’s be honest, shall we? That ain’t bourbon in that bottle. In fact, whatever it is, it wasn’t even made in Texas. Am I right Leonard?

    One of the finest straight bourbons ever made doesn’t come from Kentucky. It comes from Hye, Texas. I know because I made it.

    Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey will be available in Dallas and Fort Worth this fall. Start saving your pennies though, cause its expensive.

  5. Went to the distillery yesterday in Ft. Worth…Beautiful place…well done. The head distillery is a genuis who has worked at UTSW in Bio chemistry research…Right in the heart of Cowboy Country…smart packaging…the whiskey tastes nice…its a blend…smooth, approachable and the women that were there loved it!

    Ya know in Texas the number one selling bourbon whiskey blend is Crown from Canada FYI…

    People are going to bend the rules and get creative.

    Heck, there is a place further south that is FLASH Heating barrels of booze in Box Cars is that authentic???
    The product in Ft. Worth is ‘REAL’ and they are keeping it simple.
    Competition is always a good thang Dan!

  6. Geez Dan…After your snarky comments I know which Texas bourbon I WON’T be buying.

  7. Hey all, been running around with kids today and just saw the above posts.

    Dan, I can understand your question/concern so I would suggest you check out our new web site frdistilling.com for more detail than I’ll post here. That said, the site will give you a lot of great information about our two products: TX Blended Whiskey (which is stated on the label per Federal regulations) and F&R’s Bourbon that we distill from scratch just about every day. You will learn about the fantastic experience Troy and I had developing TX Blended Whiskey – sampling whiskeys from all over the world to identify things we liked in order to formulate a world-class blended whiskey from right here in Fort Worth,Texas. Also check out the press section. We’ve been fortunate to have some really good/accurate press, so you will read that the whiskeys we ultimately decided to use for TX Blended came from Kentucky – they happened to work quite nicely for the profile we wanted to achieve.

    For Nancy’s readers benefit, I’d like them to know that blending is a real art – just ask the guys at Crown Royal, Johnnie Walker, J&B, Forty Creek or Pendleton to name a few. It is very difficult to identify the right whiskeys to marry to achieve both a unique and excellent tasting product. As whiskey aficionados know, some of the best whiskeys in the world are blends – it’s a category rich with tradition and skillful expertise. That said, can you think of an American Blend of particular note? We couldn’t, and that is why we created TX Blended Whiskey. We think it’s innovative and incredible, and apparently the way it’s flying off the shelf in DFW others do as well. We couldn’t be prouder of the product – it’ scary smooth!!

    We think our distillery is an incredible facility. So, I’d like to invite all of Nancy’s readers to come in for a tour/tasting and also see how we make both TX Blended Whiskey and our Bourbon for themselves. It’s really a fun experience.

    I have a bottle of your bourbon at home, Dan. I enjoy it and have shared it with others. Hope you might be interested in our blend – TX will be in Austin soon.

    Not sure who OldDallasNative is in the above post but glad you enjoyed your visit.

    Cheers – this has been an awesome week for F&R and TX Blended Whiskey.

  8. Food girl is right. My comment did sound “snarky.” i apologize. And Leonard, thanks for the honesty about where it’s made and for making it clear that it’s a blend.

    As you guys know, thanks to what happened to American whiskey following Prohibition, the term “blend” is not a flattering term in bourbon circles. Bourbons are not blends. Bourbon is sacred here in Hye, so I get a little defensive when I read about bourbon “blends.”

    I will get up there and try some soon and am looking forward to it. Can’t wait to see your beautiful distillery.

  9. If Bourbon is required to be distilled in KY, then someone ought to tell the KY Distillers’ Association. See the 6th FAQ bullet in the link below.

    http://www.kybourbon.com/index.php/faq/

    I actually tasted TX Blended at Dallas’ own Single Malt Whisky Society last night. While this group of hard-core scotch guys didn’t prefer the profile of the spirit (peat heads, Glen Grant nutters, etc.), they did say that it was a good quality distillate. We could see it filling a space in the brown liquor market. I think that it would make a terrific whiskey cocktail if paired with the right ingredients.

    Has anyone poured it on ice cream? We wondered if that would be good. I also look forward to trying the Garrison product.

    I would also add a shout out to Chip, the Master Distiller down at Balcones. While I do not greatly love the bottlings on the shelves today, I have had some samples of stuff from the warehouse that I guarantee you guys would be a hit…if released. I would love for him to bottle the experimental projects.

    So, all in all, three cheers for Texas whiskey.