The Sweetheart of the Rodeo is only available at Kooper Family Whiskey's new tasting room in Fayette County.
A Texas rye producer is hoping the allure of the state's rarest whiskey ever produced will draw new customers to its recently established tasting room in Fayette County.
Kooper Family Whiskey, which had previously aged and bottled its rye in a Dripping Springs facility, moved just outside of the small Central Texas town of Round Top and opened the tasting room doors last month. Already, there are limited whiskeys on the menu that you can't find anywhere else — and one of them is Sweetheart of the Rodeo, a 100 proof, 100 percent rye whiskey that the Kooper founders are sure is the rarest whiskey to ever come out of Texas.
"We definitely vetted the claim," Troy Kooper, co-founder of the company, said. "In fact, it's on the back label and the (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) and (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission) don't allow false claims when they approve label permits. We can safely say that no other Texas whiskey was as small in quantity. Only 240 bottles total, and that's forever, not just a small batch with more on the way."
Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which aged for more than two years in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels, certainly sounds like something whiskey lovers might want to get their hands on. According to the tasting notes, it's "rich in sweet maple and subtle fruit notes with a palate of peppery grain, smoky oak and finishes with warm rye spice, black pepper and cinnamon notes."
In addition to that whiskey, the Kooper Family Rye tasting room, in a 100-year-old post office building, serves Kooper Family Rye (the flagship) and Kooper Family Barrel Reserve Rye (a whopping 116-proof spirit). The barrel reserve, like Sweetheart, is only available at the tasting room. Customers can try them all in whiskey flights, Kooper said, although single pours of each one — and bottles to go — are also an option.
Kooper and his wife, Michelle, decided to move the tasting room east of Austin, rather than remain west in its former Dripping Springs location, because of the different humidity levels those parts of Central Texas have, he said.
"We moved east to get more humidity for our aging process," he said. "The dry heat of the Hill Country was evaporating too much of our juice and accelerating the oak extraction beyond what we were looking for in our ryes. Humidity is a key ingredient for aging whiskey and has been a huge benefit for Kentucky and Tennessee whiskeys. That, along with our climate-controlled barrel house, will help us with quality control as we grow and process and sell more whiskey."
The husband-and-wife team do all the aging and blending of the whiskey that they receive already distilled. Their focus remains on rye whiskey, a skyrocketing spirits category that has become so popular in part because of rye's characteristic spice.
Look for the Kooper Family Whiskey tasting room at 100 West, U.S.-290, about an hour and 15 minutes from Austin. It's open 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 to 7 p.m. Saturdays.
For more information, visit kooperfamily.com.