The list of distillers in Houston is short: Whitmeyer's Distilling Co., Yellow Rose Distillers and Gulf Coast Distillers. But soon, we'll add a classy new option to the list. Early next year, Morgan Weber will begin pouring sips from his own Indianola Distilling Company at all of the Agricole Hospitality restaurants he owns with chef Ryan Pera except Revival Market, which doesn't have a liquor license. That includes Coltivare, Eight Row Flint and the pair's upcoming locavore compound in EaDo.
Though Indianola shares a name with the restaurant that will serve as the centerpiece among bar Miss Carousel and pizzeria Vinny's, Weber says that it and the distillery are unrelated. "We liked the name for the restaurant and it was appropriate with the direction we’re going there," he says. "We we felt the same way about the distilling company." The name comes from the coastal Texas ghost town that was once known as Indian Point, the port of entry for Germans immigrated to Texas. In 1870, those immigrants included Weber's family.
Indianola the distillery may be new, but carries with it a similar sense of history. Just as Weber and Pera chose Eight Row Flint corn to use in its tortillas in the tortillas at their eponymous icehouse, the former is seeking to restore other heritage grains by using them in his bottlings. For example, Hogshead Texas Bourbon uses Texas Gourdseed corn brought to Galveston in the mid-1800s by the Oglethorpe family. Weber's knowledge comes via help from Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills and Southern food expert David Shields of the University of South Carolina.
That Bourbon was laid down at Gulf Coast Distillery (also where Weber experimented before settling on recipes) this year and won't be ready for drinking until 2021. It will rest in large barrels called hogsheads made by Scottish company Speyside Cooperage. With the exception of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey to be made by Kentucky’s first female master distiller Marianne Barnes of Castle & Key, all other distillations will be debuting early in 2018. The remaining five will be distilled in Houston and will have a wide variety of regional bases. Georgia Belle peaches will become peach brandy, the first spirit produced in the United States, followed by a limited release of Ivy Mountain Whiskey finished in the peach brand casks.
Texas High Plains Gin starts with a brandy of local grapes, with six botanicals added later to age into gin. There's also whiskey made from the heirloom sorghum grown in Yoakum by the Anderle family. The sweetness of the sorghum means that the flavor is more akin to rum than whiskey, but because it's not made with sugarcane, it can't legally be called rum. The remaining whiskey, called Ivy Mountain Appalachian American Whiskey, is made from a traditional Appalachian mashbill of heirloom Hickory Cane corn, rye, malted barley and malted corn acquired from the Lovell family of Mount Airy, Georgia.
Weber collaborates on this project with master distiller Dave Pickerell, whose drinks have come in big-name imprints including Maker's Mark and Whistlepig Rye Whiskey. The initial release will be local, but admits he's set his sights high. After hitting Austin, then the rest of Texas, "ultimately, we want to be national," he says. Meaning an even wider audience for his taste of history.