Lone Elm Tasting – July 9, 2019 – Heritage Wine & Spirits Longview
with Lone Elm's Brandon Choate
Brandon Choate of Lone Elm joined us at Heritage in Longview to enlighten us on the history, operation, and offerings from the Whiskey of Five Points Distilling. These special distillery chats are a nice little bonus for Heritage and ETBS current and future members, and we want to give you a taste of what we experienced.
Lone Elm of Forney, TX, started in 2012, is an all-Texas grain to glass whiskey distilled at Five Points Distilling. It all starts with the wheat for this unique brown-water, and the wheat was the primary consideration going into this venture. They built a distillery around wheat and then found a local source of red winter wheat to provide the special characteristics they first had in mind as well as ensure everything in the bottle (and even the bottle itself) was Texas-born.
They began with new 15-gallon American white oak barrels, moved up to 33-gallon, and finally started filling 53’s. The water comes from the Texas sky – UV and reverse osmosis-treated rainwater, to be more specific. And finishing that distillate with a number 3 char and around 6 years in the Texas climate, they produce a pure wheat whiskey that recently won Gold at the Denver International Spirits Competition.
Tapping into the heritage of the location, Lone Elm was named after the original moniker of Forney, TX as bestowed by the original Arkansas settlers. Interestingly, many of their distillers today are from Arkansas. They use a 500 gallon, 4 plate level still, and all bottling is done onsite in Texas-produced bottles.
When you are part of the East Texas Bourbon Society, you live for all the interesting little tidbits you can’t read on the side of the bottle, and this tasting didn’t disappoint. One of the original third part owners was the Brooklyn rapper MC Search of the group 3rd Base, which I believe makes this the first Texas whiskey with direct East Coast rap connections.
Another nugget I found interesting was one of their early aging experiments - a “fast-aging” process in a couple shipping containers. While it did work well to quickly darken the spirit, it also proved to be enough of a safety concern to soon warrant the construction of a true barrel room.
In the future, be on the lookout for Lone Elm to produce a wheated bourbon, a rye, a rum, and a gin to go along with the wheat whiskey and vodka they already produce. They’re also working with Ranger Creek and Treaty Oaks on some future blends. Needless to say, success hasn’t slowed them down in the least.
So let’s get into the tasting!
We were first presented with a 6-year small batch at 90 proof. The small batch at Lone Elm is a chill filtered whiskey made up of single barrels that didn’t make the “Single Barrel” cut. The nose of this one had some banana character, with perhaps a bit of saddle leather and dark cherry, as well. I liked the overall sweet taste, but I was wanting a little more in the finish.
And I found it in the next offering. We tasted a Single Barrel 6-year at 115.5 proof. The Single Barrel offerings are not chill filtered, and whether this was the source of the more mouth-feeling warm sweetness or it was a consequence of this barrel’s location during aging it is probably impossible to say. All I know is that if you find a bottle of Lone Elm from Barrel 75 you must BUY IT ON THE SPOT! We were told citrus would act as a good complement to this and most wheat whiskeys, but I could think of no better complement to this one than a second pour.
And just to round off the tasting with experimental conditions, we tried a second Single Barrel offering, this time at 114.2 proof (all their Single Barrels are individually proofed) from Barrel 94. Interestingly, while this one had a sweeter taste to it, there seemed to be less viscosity. It just didn’t open up and coat your mouth the same way. It was suggested that this could have been related to the difference in time between the opening of the two bottles, but it was hard to believe the two taste sensations could vary so much from a difference in oxidation post-bottling.
I prefer to believe this exhibited the powerful effect aging location can play in the final character of whiskey. After all, these two Single Barrels were both produced at the same time and barreled on the same day. Yet they ended up, after the same shared aging period, with a slightly different proof and taste profile. When you hear about distillers or blenders with a gift for finding honey barrels or there’s discussion around the sweet spot in an aging room or rickhouse, this is what they’re talking about. Same juice, same age, yet I would absolutely pay more to experience Barrel 75 than 94 (not that 94 wasn’t also quite wonderful).
It’s the Bourbon Society, and I’m a die-hard for the corn stuff, but I was made a believer today in the power of wheat. I’ll be keeping a look out for Lone Elm in the future, especially the Single Barrel (and that sweet number 75!) and eventually their wheated bourbon. And hopefully now you’ll feel a little more comfortable with a blind buy of their brand.
Until next time, keep your bourbon warm, your cigar lit, your wit sharp, and your mind open.
Erik Dunham - ETBS