HOUSTON—From a small road-side shop in Pinehurst in southwest Montgomery County two men are busy filling as many bottles as they can with hand-crafted bourbon and whiskey as they join a growing flood of uniquely Texas spirits.
Business is so good for Troy Smith and Ryan Baird of Yellow Rose Distilling that the micro-distillery they started two years ago will soon have a bigger home and bigger production capacity in the Galleria area of Houston.
“We pretty much sell all the bourbon that we produce right now,” said Baird of their biggest selling product, Outlaw Bourbon made from 100-percent corn and aged six months in small 3 ½ gallon charred oak barrels.
The product they create from a single pot still in their Pinehurst location is now in stores throughout Texas. And it started with a simple idea just a few years ago.
“And he’s like, ‘Man wouldn’t it be good to make some kind of product?’ And next thing you know it’s selling as fast as you can make it,” said Smith.
“First and foremost, Texas is like its own country so everybody has an interest in Texas,” said Baird.
Yellow Rose also sells a Straight Rye Whiskey and a Blended Whiskey, also created by Smith and Baird at their Pinehurst location.
But they also know they have plenty of Texas competition. In fact, on the shelf at your nearest liquor store they are one of the newest members of a Texas whiskey wave. Spec’s sells a dozen Texas-bred bourbons and whiskeys.
“The explosion’s been in the last year, 18 months,” said Harold Hensley of Spec’s. Hensley said there are more than 20 distillers across the state banking on Texas ingredients, Texas know-how, and the Texas heat that can speed up the aging process, to create a unique Texas flavor.
“They’ve done well in international competitions. And just the name Texas on it, people are always looking for things from Texas,” said Hensley.
In fact, the Texas brand is so popular you can find Texas-themed products like “Sam Houston Whiskey.” It certainly sounds Texan. But it’s actually made in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
“Oh the Texas name helps tremendously,” said Scott Crownover who distributes Texas Crown in the Houston area. Texas Crown is sold inside a decorative felt bag designed to look like the Texas flag. Crownover says his mother-in-law helped design the bag. But Texas Crown isn’t made in Texas. It’s a product of Canada.
“We’ve got great customers out there that have become really loyal and have really grabbed onto the brand,” said Crownover of the blended whiskey aged four to six years in oak barrels.
Yellow Rose’s Outlaw bourbon is aged in smaller barrels that Baird and Smith say creates a flavor all its own. It was recently awarded a Gold Medal and “Best in Class” at the American Distilling Institute 2013 Artisan Competition and won a Double Gold medal at the San Francisco Spirits Competition.
“Yes, it is definitely a movement that is on the rise, and we’re glad to be a part of it,” said Smith.
“As far as where we plan to go, you know we want to take this as big as we can,” said Baird.
“We definitely want to go nationwide,” added Smith.
And licensing and marketing deals in several states are in the works.