These wetlands aren’t on the lake as such, but are just off one inlet of it. They are remarkably beautiful and very little-known, even here in Waco. Click on the photos for larger versions.
My former student Gabriel RiCharde is now working for the pride of Waco, Balcones Distilling, and today he gave me a tour. It was really fascinating. I have read a bit over the years about the process of distilling spirits, and I knew that it is complicated — but when you actually get walked through each stage … wow. At every step of the process complex science is involved, but also decisions that require artful intuition.
Here’s a closeup of the door to the mash tun, which was bought from the Speyburn distillery in Scotland, and which has been used to make whisky for about 75 years:
And here’s one of the amazing new stills, just arrived a few weeks ago from Scotland:
And this steampunky thing is attached to the stills — I don’t know what it is, but it looks super cool:
Here’s the tasting and blending room, where I could have stayed for quite some time:
And here the aging process, in barrels made variously of American, French, and other European oak:
And finally, after all that hard work of listening and gaping, I had to take a couple of presents home for myself:
I live in Waco, Texas, which is a relatively small city and a relatively poor city, a city with its share of problems both historic and current — but also a place where some pretty cool things are happening. Last night, for instance, my wife Teri and I enjoyed an early Valentine’s Day dinner at Balcones Distillery — maker of some of the finest and most celebrated spirits in the world — where the distillers had teamed up with Milo Biscuit Company, a local food truck and caterer, to create a lovely dinner in the tasting room.
Each course came paired with a cocktail or a straight Balcones spirit — their Baby Blue corn whisky, their classic Texas single Malt, their wonderful rum-like spirit called Rumble.
It was quite peculiar having a fine dinner without wine! — and I probably wouldn’t want to do it all the time, but the pairings were really well-chosen and the food was delicious, right there next to some of the aging barrels.
I had fresh Gulf snapper, perfectly cooked, and Teri had duck breast, also perfectly cooked, but perhaps the best taste of the evening was the cheese course, a Delice de Bourgogne paired with a whisky aged in rum barrels (not yet released to the public). It was truly memorable. I meant to take pictures of the food but was too occupied with eating it until I got to dessert, a flourless chocolate cake with rose cream and raspberries.
And then when we were on our way out we were given a piece of salted caramel that the chef, Corey, had made with a touch of Balcones Brimstone, a whisky smoked with scrub oak. That was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
All in all, big fun here in Waco! Our hearty thanks to chef Corey and the rest of the crew.