Two locals launched Banner Distilling a few years in a small building in rural Manor with the goal of bottling up a Texas-made wheat whiskey. But it was only earlier this year that their dream was realized.
Although Banner co-founders Logan Simpson and Anthony Jimenez released a vodka first — because an unaged spirit is an easier way to bring in revenue early — they’ve finally gotten the whiskey on the market and have already seen it become award-winning.
Banner Distilling’s wheat whiskey recently took a silver medal at the New York International Spirits Competition. The spirit also earned a bronze medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in the spring. They’re two gratifying wins for the Banner duo whose operation is so small that the whiskey is released at less than 150 bottles at a time, after aging five gallons at a time in American white oak barrels.
Simpson and Jimenez decided to play with wheat as the dominant grain in the whiskey, rather than the more commonly used corn or rye, because of their desire to keep ingredients as local as possible. Their distillery is located in an area where farmers told them, early on, that they’d be willing to grow whatever Banner needs.
“There are wheat fields all over the place here, so it just makes sense for us to do it,” Jimenez said during a visit to the distillery last year.
In addition to winter wheat grown in nearby New Sweden, the 92-proof whiskey also features malted barley from Leander’s Blacklands Malt and rainwater harvested from Smithville’s Texas Rain. “We literally use Texas air, sun, soil and rain to make the whiskey,” Simpson said in a recent email. “We like to say it has Texas in the bottle, not just on it.”
The result is a complex aged spirit with notes of toasted cherry and black pepper. The wheat, Jimenez said in an email, is a flavor “impossible to mask. It’s (akin) to sipping on a glass of freshly baked bread with a sweet, peppery finish,” shining through and breathing new life into classic cocktails like Old Fashioneds or Manhattans.
Simpson noted that it’s only been getting better with each batch. “We anticipate gold next year,” he said.
For more information, visit www.bannerdistilling.com.