The owner of Calais Winery in Hye has already delivered a French flair to his Texas wines — and now wants to offer his take on rum, another popular drink in his native France.
Benjamin Calais says he felt passionate about diving into rum, in addition to wine, because he noticed a different attitude toward rum in the states than abroad.
“I just don’t feel like rum has the place it deserves in the U.S.,” Calais says. “There hasn’t been a craft revival for rum as there has been for gin and whiskey … and there is not much interesting rum produced in the U.S. for the U.S. market. People design them as vodkalike, and it’s used as a mixer, so it’s often as neutral as possible. I just don’t think that’s part of the rum tradition.”
Calais partnered up with distiller James Davidson to make bigger, fuller rum at the newly opened Hye Rum at 11247 U.S. 290 West, which is located not far from Calais’ winery on the popular wine trail between Johnson City and Fredericksburg.
When people visit the distillery and its accompanying tasting room, they’ll find Caribbean-style and New Orleans-style drinks, like mai tais and hurricanes, that use Hye Rum and from-scratch mixers and bitters.
“We have everything from sweet dessert-style cocktails like the painkiller to more bone-dry options, like the barrel-aged old fashioned and navy grog,” Calais says. “We have a daiquiri, our version of the Cuba libre, a dark and stormy, a mojito, a piña colada … I feel like those are the fundamental rum cocktails.”
Although Calais loves rum from French islands like Martinique and French Guyana, the spirits there are primarily made using sugar cane juice, versus from a sugar cane byproduct like molasses, the base of Hye Rum. The sugar cane juice gives the rum a floral character that Calais and Davidson will replicate only in very small releases. Because the distillery isn’t located in the Caribbean, they don’t have regular access to fresh juice, he said.
“We’re going to run an old-fashioned pot still, fermenting from scratch and distilling twice,” he says. Having a pot still rather than a column still will help Hye Rum’s mission of producing flavorful, full-bodied rum products using molasses. Some of the rum will be aged in a variety of French oak barrels, most of which have originally come from Calais Winery.
“We’re using all the fermentation tricks that I’ve learned in the wine business to create a fuller product; I just have to remember we’re working with molasses instead of grapes.” For more information, visit hyerum.com.
Devils River Whiskey hits the Texas market
The current president of the Texas Distilled Spirits Association has produced a whiskey named for and made with the pure, limestone-filtered water from a feisty Texas river.
Devils River Bourbon Whiskey, thought up by Mike Cameron, is hitting stores this month as a 90-proof small-batch Texas whiskey primarily made up of corn, with rye as a strong secondary ingredient. Cameron, also the co-founder of Rebecca Creek Whiskey, named his new project after a Southwest Texas river where he used to fish in college.
When he “decided to create something new in the world of Texan distilled spirits,” he came up with several possible brand names — including Devils River Whiskey — and liked the personal connection he has with the river near Del Rio, he said in a press release. “I had all but settled on the brand and, by chance, had lunch with a friend, who told me that he was going to go kayaking on a beautiful river in Southwest Texas. He was referring to Devils River, and that’s when it started to feel like fate,” he said.
The whiskey is fermented using a proprietary process, distilled in traditional copper pot stills suited for making flavorful dark spirits and matured in charred oak barrels. As a result, Devils River Whiskey is “sweet yet bold,” with an “oak, honey and caramel medley” on the palate, according to the distillery. The whiskey is 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye and 4 percent barley. That’s already proven to be a recipe for success: Devils River Whiskey recently took gold at the Denver International Spirits Competition.
The whiskey will hit the Texas market in coming weeks with a suggested retail price of $29.99. For more information, visit devilsriverwhiskey.com.
Devils River Whiskey Buck
2 oz. Devils River Bourbon Whiskey
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1 1/2 oz. chilled ginger beer
Pour all ingredients except the ginger beer into a copper mug over ice. Stir to combine. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.
— Devils River Whiskey