Vodka usually goes considered one of two routes. Both it’s bland and boring, or it’s loaded with synthetic flavors and arguably unfit for consumption (you’ll by no means persuade me that raspberry vodka is marketed to adults). The most effective harness their uncooked elements to create taste with out veering too far outdoors the specified field. Houston-based Freeway Vodka falls firmly into that camp.
Freeway holds two notable distinctions: It’s the state’s first Black-owned distillery and the primary to make hemp seed vodka. The corporate was based by Texas natives and childhood pals Ben Williams and Wendell Robbins, who previously owned the Houston bar Scrappy Brown’s. Williams additionally labored together with his brother, James Beard Award finalist chef Chris Williams, to open the favored Southern restaurant, Lucille’s.
“We began this as a interest,” Williams tells InsideHook. The founders purchased a small nonetheless and commenced experimenting in a horse barn with varied grain recipes, studying books and watching YouTube movies to study the ropes.
After visiting a dispensary in Los Angeles, they obtained impressed. “We couldn’t use precise hashish in Texas, so we started enjoying with hemp and included that into the mashbill,” Williams says. “We settled on hemp seed, corn and water — it was the perfect stuff we’d made to that time, and it had this unimaginable, oily mouthfeel.” And that’s even supposing they have been utilizing a 13-gallon nonetheless, with a Brita filter to shine the spirit.
Williams and Robbins started blind-tasting pals and restaurant patrons on their DIY vodka, often beating out big-name manufacturers, so that they determined to make it a enterprise. It was a slog. Permits took three years, partly as a result of the TTB was unfamiliar with hemp seed. “Nobody had actually seen this earlier than, so we hit each crimson flag alongside the best way,” says Williams, despite the fact that they have been utilizing food-grade hemp seed, and the vodka contained zero THC or CBD. Lastly, they have been permitted, and in 2019 the enterprise was born. At first, bottles have been restricted to Houston, however a current distribution deal has introduced the vodka to markets throughout Texas.
Freeway vodka is distilled six instances and blended with properly water from a close-by aquifer. They’ve come a good distance because the Brita days, they usually needed to construct their very own filtration system as a result of, as Williams explains, what was available didn’t work with the hemp. Now they will management stream charges and publicity to the charcoal filter, stripping out the pointless bits with out dropping that wealthy mouthfeel they need.
The vodka is gentle, candy and earthy, with notes of vanilla and herbs. It’s a major departure from lots of the impartial choices available on the market. So, in case you like vodka, you’ll like this. For those who don’t like vodka, you’ll in all probability nonetheless like this. It’s affordable to sip it straight or over ice, although it additionally works properly in easy cocktails like a Vodka Collins or when blended with soda or tonic.
Freeway Vodka is out there throughout Texas, in addition to choose markets in Georgia, South Carolina and California, with extra to return. Williams says that Freeway is engaged on a pair new vodkas now, so he hopes to broaden the lineup quickly. And a portion of the distillery’s hemp-based spirit is at the moment sitting in barrels, a two-year experiment that can end in an aged product.
Proper now, the distillery is a manufacturing facility that’s not open to the general public. That may change later this yr or early 2024, as Freeway expands their website to incorporate an adjoining, new-build property with a tasting room and area to present excursions. It’s situated on seven acres of land with a creek working by means of it.
“We’re situated simply outdoors of downtown, nevertheless it feels just like the nation,” says Williams. So it’s not a foul place to commune with nature, even when that simply means sitting on the bar and ingesting hemp seed vodka.
The Secret to Nice Cocktails? Discover Out in The Spill.