A Man of Few Words at Whiskey Hollow Distillery

I don't go in for stereotypes, although they can be useful sometimes. That's why I've always dismissed the idea of the barely-speaking cowboy as a Hollywood fantasy. I've been in Texas for all of eighteen hours when I roll up to Whiskey Hollow Distillery in Valley View. And that's where at least one example of the Texan tough guy caricature is presented to me, in the form of JP, co-owner and distiller.

Allow me to paint a picture of Valley View first, since it would fall into a stereotype of "quaint settler town." It's a single exit off I-35W in the shadow of Dallas, but it looks much how I imagine it would have when it was founded in 1870. That is to say, it consists of one-story buildings facing a town square.

The building inhabited by Whiskey Hollow has plenty of history itself, as JP comes around to tell me. It was a bank for most of the 20th Century. It's claim to fame was being robbed by Bonnie and Clyde. In fact, as JP is telling me this, I look at the original-tile floor and see a pair of deeply embedded track marks leading out the front door. It must have been something very heavy. A safe, JP chimes in. Then he pours an extremely generous serving of his Gold Bourbon. He duly informs me it goes for $150/bottle and all 37 available barrels, stacked to the ceiling against the wall opposite, have beenpre-sold to various bars and restaurants. I'm actually stressing over how he's going to respond to my customary two little sips? I think I detect a smirk, but staying true to the stone facade stereotype, he doesn't say a word.

The bourbon is very woody, in an enjoyable way - and somewhat surprising since it's aged twelve months. The mash is 58% corn, 12% barley and 30% wheat, At 110 proof, there is some burn to it, but the sweetness of the corn still manages to come through. I don't think I'd pay $150 for a bottle (I'm not in a position to drop $150 on any alcohol, unless it's a bar tab for a night out). Fortunately for Whiskey Hollow, they have found plenty of others that will.

JP leads me to the back of the room, occupied mostly by their giant pot still and a couple fermenting tanks and mash tuns. Adding to the old-time feel are two preserved safes. The walk-in one is now the restroom (JP stands in front of it in the picture). There is another, smaller safe inside that porthole-shaped door. It remains locked to this day, and JP doesn't express much interest in finding out what's inside. But this is JP we're talking about, so there's no way to read where his interest lies.

Whiskey Hollow makes several types of rum under its "Double Thumper" label. It's all from first run molasses, made from Texas sugar cane, and comes in a couple proofs: 80 and 151. There is an 80 proof Gold rum that is aged in a bourbon barrel for five months. I'm not brave enough to ask to sample any of these. JP was reluctant enough to give me the initial pour of bourbon that I hardly touched.

 A long table is lined with bottles of their 151 proof moonshine. Each has a different type of fruit infusing inside. If that's not enough sweetness for you, JP has those washing machine-looking mixers you see in lining the walls of sidewalk bars in Vegas and New Orleans - the premaid slushies of doom. His is made with the Silver Rum. I'm sure it is better than anything you can get on spring break. But when you gaze out the open door to the sunny silence of Valley View's town square, the more somber whiskey seems like the appropriate choice.

One more sip of bourbon from the mini sifter and I am back outside, reflecting as I look around. Some things in this world change very fast. But standing here on the sidewalk of a frontier-turned-exurb town, you can still imagine Bonnie and Clyde grinning at the modest, unsuspecting bank as they cruise by: an easy mark, and Whiskey Hollow has the tracks to prove it.


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