Firestone And Robertson on Distilling Bourbon and Whiskey in Fort Worth
Firestone and Robertson
Surely it's difficult to convince your spouse that it's a good idea to quit your day job to distill whiskey. Considering that's exactly what Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson did, they must be really good talkers. In a salvaged Prohibition-era warehouse south of downtown Fort Worth, they're filling barrels and bottles weekly.
The two previously knew each other through their kids' play group, but it was by chance that Robertson was touring a distillery near Austin when the owner commented that another guy from Fort Worth had scheduled a tour for the next week. Robertson was shocked to find out it was Firestone. The next day they had lunch and decided to start this venture together.
For the past several years they've been fervent students, sampling whiskeys, learning techniques and studying methods from around the world.
They've also been learning a little about patience, because even after they barreled their first bourbon in March of this year, it'll be two years before it matures and is ready to bottle.
Recently I got to chat with Leonard Firestone about his distillery in Cowtown, which is one of the largest craft distilleries in the nation.
(Disclaimer: Never at any time did anyone at Firestone and Robertson offer the writer or anyone at the Observer a bottle of blended whiskey nor a barrel of bourbon. We only note this because we thought Fort Worth folk were supposed to be super friendly.)
How did you learn about the craft of distilling whiskey (in short form)?
We spent a lot of time in Kentucky and talking to distillers. We also went to conferences and visited various craft distilleries around the country just learning everything that we could.
You both quit your regular jobs to do this. Was that a tough decision?
For me it was a very difficult decision. The biggest challenge was actually convincing my wife.
Your bourbon will age for two years in charred American white oak barrels. Might sound like a silly question, but how do you know if it'll be any good?
We really already know the basic characteristics of the whiskey before it goes into the barrels. Barrel maturation is pretty much a science. We look for specific notes and flavor characteristics prior to it going into the barrel, which will ultimately make a really good whiskey. We've had some testers who have been in the business for decades, who tested what we call the "white dog" (the whiskey before it's aged) and they've had the opportunity to sample white dog from a lot of different distilleries. One expert who tried ours said it had a really good flavor. And so it was good to get that validation.
How does Texas weather affect distilling?
Climate plays a big factor in the maturation of whiskey. The barrels are made from charred American white oak and when the barrels expand from the heat, the whiskey permeates into the oak capillaries. Then, in colder temperatures, it recedes again. This process adds flavor.