In the Spirit

In the Spirit: Maverick Distillery

By: Erin Byers Murray

The owners of Maverick Distillery share the unexpected history of their single-barrel Straight Triticale Whiskey.

Triticale Whiskey Bottled In Bond by Maverick Distillery

Corn, wheat, rye, and sometimes barley are what you typically hear about when talking whiskey. Introduce an ingredient like triticale, though—a hybrid grain made from wheat and rye—and most whiskey aficionados will scratch their heads. Enter small, family-run Maverick Distilling based in San Antonio, Texas, which recently released an extremely limited batch of single-barrel Samuel Maverick Straight Triticale Whiskey Bottled-In-Bond. The creation was more “happy accident” than strategic planning, but the results have the distillery ready to make more. 

The Local Palate recently had a taste and we were blown away by each smooth, richly layered sip, especially considering its considerably youthful four years in new oak barrels. We caught up with distillery owners Kenneth and Amy Maverick, who hold day jobs as an ophthalmologist and physician, respectively, to hear more about the history of their work and of the delightful fortune that led to their remarkable new bottling.

The Making of Maverick Distillery

Maverick Distillery Samuel Maverick Limited Edition Whiskey

TLP: Tell us a bit about the history of Maverick—and specifically your family roots in San Antonio.

Kenneth Maverick: The brief story is that my great-great-great grandfather Samuel Maverick had history going back to the Alamo. The distillery actually sits on the original Maverick homestead. There’s a long story here but I had a great-great-great uncle who was killed in the Boston Massacre. Samuel, his brother, was a Yale-educated lawyer who, through some chain of events, ended up in a duel and shot a man—the man’s name was John C. Calhoun. And when you shoot the future vice president of the United States, you have to leave town. Side note that he actually brought Calhoun back to his house and nursed him to health and they became lifelong friends after that. [Later,] Samuel became integral in the annexation of Texas and the development of Texas as a state. Sam Maverick ended up in San Antonio around age 35 where, at the time, there was another revolution going on. The Mexican army led by Santa Anna was surrounding the city of San Antonio. Samuel ended up inside the Alamo with 180 other men two nights before the Alamo fell. He was elected by the men inside to represent San Antonio in the Confederacy. He left under the cover of darkness to go represent the men inside and he describes himself as the solitary survivor to have escaped. Apparently, he also left some of his whiskey behind, as the legend goes. [Eventually], he made his family homestead right next to the Alamo. Back then, wine, brandy, and also whiskey were really the currency of the time. Samuel would always close a land deal with a handshake and a barrel of whiskey. And that’s where the story begins.

TLP: OK, so fast-forward—what made you personally interested in making whiskey?

Kenneth Maverick: Our first batch of Maverick whiskey was made on my back porch. A buddy of mine who was back from Afghanistan a number of years ago said, hey, why don’t we try to make some whiskey? He hadn’t had a drink in a while because he’d been over there for about nine months. So, we started doing it on my back porch. Our first attempt to distill turned into other attempts, which is when my sweet wife invited me to find another place to do it. That’s when we started looking at the bank property downtown. The building was built more than 100 years ago and had fallen into a dilapidated state. My wife and I purchased it about seven years ago—it was in pretty rough shape so we restored it, which took a couple of years. Now, it’s a beautiful, state-of-the-art distillery in downtown San Antonio.

Maverick Distillery Samuel Maverick Limited Edition Whiskey next to a cocktail

TLP: Where does triticale come into the picture?

Kenneth Maverick: Early on in our distilling process, we received a large order of what we thought was rye, but as we started distilling it, we realized it wasn’t behaving quite right. It was really making a mess of the distillery. This went on for about a month where every weekend we spent basically cleaning up the floor of the distillery because the fermentation had bubbled over. A few weeks into it, our distiller was scratching his head and we were trying all sorts of ways to contain the mess. Finally, we took the grain back to a microscope and realized it had been mislabeled. We went back to the malthouse we work with (called Maverick Malt House, but no relation) and they apologized—they had mislabeled the sacks and what they sent us turned out to be triticale, which looks very similar to rye. The grain is a hybrid of rye and wheat that was invented by a Scottish botanist in 1873. This was just a crossing experiment that had been done to create a hardier grain. It was brought to the US in the 1960s. We decided to see the distillation through and that was in spring 2019. We aged it for four years and four months in new American oak barrels, which we keep in the subterranean vaults, which were part of the original bank building. We only made four barrels at the time; we released one as a two-year-old but went through it pretty quickly. We’ve just released this four year, which is 100-proof, bottled-in-bond. It’s a bit of a nod to the first real Maverick of our family, made on the original family homestead.

TLP: How would you describe it?

Kenneth Maverick: We like to think it has a little bit of butterscotch and a bit of grain-forward heat on the tongue, maybe with a bit of honey. Then there’s a little bit of orange zest, some pecan, and maybe a little smoke. The mash bill is exactly like our rye, so it’s about 72 percent triticale, about 10 percent barley, and the rest is South Texas corn. Now that we know what we’re getting, especially with the four-year, we’ve contracted with a farm in North Texas to keep getting more of it, so we’ve made another batch—we just need to wait about four more years to release it.

In the meantime, visitors can stop into the distillery for a tour and to learn about the rest of Maverick’s line of spirits, which includes straight bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey, gin, tequila, and a selection of craft beers.  

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