I’m always on the lookout for new distilleries in my resident state of Texas, so I was excited to see that a newer Dallas-based distiller, Lockwood Distilling, had found its way into my local Austin liquor store. I had previously tried one of their sub-brands, Barrel & Banter, but I was curious to see what they can really put out when the gloves come off.
The Batt family are no stranger to the spirits industry. Evan Batt started out as a sales representative for a distributor and worked his way up the chain, eventually co-founding Western Son Vodka and then signing on as the sales director for Desert Door Sotol.
Seeing the market opportunity for something in their local area, Evan and his wife, Sally Batt, decided to open the Lockwood Distilling Company in October of 2019 in Richardson, Texas. The couple had a vision of opening a local craft distillery and eatery that could be a hangout for the local community and bring people together.
Just a few months after opening their doors, though, the pandemic hit and forced them to rethink their plan. The distillery switched from producing alcoholic spirits to hand sanitizer for the community and was able to weather the 2020 lockdowns without needing to lay off any employees.
As the restrictions eased, the distillery came back to life with outdoor dining and live music. They became so popular locally that the distillery has expanded to a second location on Magnolia Avenue in Fort Worth — and, fun fact: the name “Lockwood” combined with the fact that the new location used to be a locksmith apparently attracted so many people looking to get keys duplicated that they actually purchased a key making machine for the bar.
The distillery also produces the previously mentioned Barrel and Banter line of spirits under a different brand name.
- Learn More: What Is Bourbon Whiskey?
Since this is labeled a bourbon, this whiskey is required to come from a mixture of grains that are at least 51% corn, but they didn’t quite stop there. While the current trend in whiskey production seems to be going for the bare minimum level of corn and then adding in a whole bunch of other stuff, Lockwood went the opposite direction: this is 75% Texas corn and 25% Oklahoma-grown rye. Those grains are milled, cooked, and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic liquid.
Lockwood Distilling Co. has an array of stills including a column still and a pot still, but the lack of specificity here makes me think that this was likely distilled in their column still (if they had used the pot still, they’d presumably highlight that in their marketing materials). The newly made whiskey is then placed into new charred oak barrels where it sits in the volatile Texas weather for a minimum of two years prior to bottling.
The bottle design here has some glimmers of excellence, but ultimately falls a little flat in my opinion.
With the glass bottle itself, the design is very standard and typical for a small craft distillery: a round, cylindrical body that curves at the shoulder to a medium length neck, topped off with a wood and synthetic stopper. It isn’t the most imaginative shape in the world — but then again, I’m not going to knock a small distillery for focusing on the contents instead of the container with their investment.
I do feel like this label is a bit unnecessarily large for the bottle, though. The white lettering on a black background is clean, bold, and easy to read, but the spirit in the bottle should be the star of the show. With a label this large, it’s tough to get a sense of the true color of the spirit. If the label was innovative or unique (I’m thinking about the artist-focused labels from Still Austin, for example), I could be inclined to forgive it. But a minimalist black background in lieu of spirit transparency doesn’t feel like a trade in which the consumer wins.
That said, they’re doing one thing right with their packaging: the different types of whiskey in their line each have another small rectangular label at the bottom with a different color for each, which helps visually distinguish them on the shelf.
The aroma is relatively thin, with a heavy emphasis on raw corn. There’s some brown sugar, caramel, and a hint of vanilla, as well… but it still smells predominantly like you stuck your head inside a corn silo.
What you see in the aroma is pretty much what you get in the flavor as well, with the raw corn taking center stage almost immediately as soon as you take a sip. It is joined pretty quickly by some good brown sugar, caramel, and dried apricots before the rye kicks in and adds a noticeable black pepper spice that lasts into the finish.
The flavor is a little unbalanced here, with the rye spice at the end throwing the whole thing off. Right up until that point, though, everything seemed to have played together nicely.
I think the addition of some ice actually suits this spirit. The rye content and the raw corn was a little much when I tried it neat but, once the ice goes into the glass, those two flavors are turned way down and everything else gets a chance to breathe.
At this point, the brown sugar and dried fruit are really coming through loud and clear. It’s almost (but not quite) to the “fruitcake” level that you might see in a well aged Cognac, only without the associated sweetness and a touch less saturated. There’s still a hint of the raw corn that makes an appearance near the finish, but at this point it seems more like an aromatic lift to an otherwise deeper and richer spirit that adds some levity and balance.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
What we have here is a solid Old Fashioned, with the richer dried fruit and brown sugar flavors nicely balancing with the herbal components in the angostura bitters. It’s a bit of a richer, more saturated take on the cocktail, and one that I appreciate. I think if the raw corn hadn’t taken been toned down by the ice, this could have been a very different outcome (and not in a good way), but thankfully that ice is keeping it mellow enough to allow the other flavors to come through.
I do think that this is one of those situations where a bit of sugar helps things out. Usually, I like to make my old fashioned cocktails without sugar (just a personal preference), but in this case there’s just a little help needed to overcome the eponymous bitterness from the bitters that the spirit can’t handle on its own.
This works, but honestly I was hoping we’d get just a little bit more character out of the spirit in this cocktail.
There’s a good balance here between the dried fruit and brown sugar flavors in the spirit and the bright (but sometimes tart) ginger beer and lime juice. The brighter flavors from our mixers add some lift and light to the cocktail while the dried fruit keeps things a little grounded and more well-rounded.
What I’m not getting is much texture on the finish. Usually, a high rye content whiskey adds some pepper spice to the finish of this cocktail which provides a little bit of a kick that is quite enjoyable. In this case, however, it seems that we’re just getting a smooth fade-to-black instead. Still good, but not as good as it could be.
This is a fine first showing for a new distillery. The flavor profile might have a few rough edges still when taken neat, but it has a good balance when you add ice or mix it into a cocktail.
I also feel like some of the issues with the flavor profile can be hammered out with a little extra aging and some additional blending as the distillery matures. Which, to be honest, is probably the biggest obstacle facing this whiskey. The distillery has only been open for a little over two years — barely enough time to make the whiskey in this bottle. Older distilleries benefit from being able to blend in some of their older stock, and as this distillery matures that’s something they will be able to benefit from as well. But (for now) this tastes and acts like a very young whiskey.
|Lockwood Distilling Co Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Produced By: Lockwood Distilling CoProduction Location: Texas, United States
Classification: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $32.49 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
A young whiskey with a lot of raw corn, but plenty of other dried fruit and rich flavors to make it worthwhile in a cocktail.