There’s a Vodka Still in Lewisville that You Should Know About
Lewisville, Texas, is probably the last place you’d look for handcrafted vodka, and yet here it is. A nondescript commercial building is home to the DeLos Vodka distillery. It’s also home to some serious passion, commitment and quality- and a very entertaining tour.
DeLos Vodka’s owner and founder Carlos Guillem (the “Los” of DeLos) began tinkering with stills on his back porch and in his garage, passing along the results to family and friends. He then made the leap from backyard hobby to business. While awaiting government approval for his distillery, he hit upon the concept of vacuum distillation, which produces a cleaner, higher quality vodka than traditional distillation. More about the vacuum in a minute.
DeLos’ production facility is small. Expected output for 2010 is 25,000- 30,000 cases. By comparison, Tito’s moves about 360,000 cases per year and Absolut passed the 10 million cases per year mark in 2007.
The vodka-making process begins with purifying local water by reverse osmosis to pharmaceutical grade purity. A few minerals are then added back to the water to enhance the flavor of the finished spirit. This water, plus wheat, rye and yeast, make up the building blocks of the vodka. These ingredients are fermented, and the resulting “mash” is distilled.
In a typical distillation process, heat is applied to the still, which causes the alcohol in the mash to turn to steam. These vapors rise into tubes and are cooled and condensed into a liquid distillate. As the volume of alcohol in the mash decreases, more heat is necessary for the steam to rise to the top of the still and find its way into the condensation tubes.
At DeLos, a vacuum process is used to help pull that steam upward and through the top of the still, giving the vapors a direction rather than allowing them to wander around looking for a way out. This gentler process eliminates the need for excessive heat to force the steam upward. This produces a higher quality vodka. DeLoss is the only commercial distiller using this vacuum-assisted process in the U.S.
After a period of rest and relaxation, the vodka is charcoal filtered, bottled and boxed for shipment. DeLos sources primarily from Texas vendors and producers, enhancing their reputation as a true Texas product. Labels, bottle caps and shipping boxes are all from Texas companies. They hope to one day grow their own wheat and rye in North Texas, as well.
I was impressed by the entire operation, but nothing beat the contagious enthusiasm of Master Distiller (and tour guide) Chris Byles as he explained the art and science of making a handcrafted spirit. He’s constantly innovating and improving, managing and explaining every aspect of production, manufacturing and bottling.
And although the operation is expanding (new, larger stills are on the way), Byles and Guillem have no plans to grow into an industrial-sized producer.
So how does DeLos’ vodka taste? Impeccably clean, with a hint of sweetness and a slight citrus note. Traditional distillation can result in burnt, acrid flavors. Because of DeLos’ vacuum process, their Vokda is just clean, pure and smooth. No bitter aftertaste. No need for cranberry juice or bloody mary mix– this is a straight martini quality spirit.
At $20 a bottle, would I buy a bottle for my own liquor cabinet? Yes. And so should you.
The statewide DeLos Vodka rollout is February 1.
Green is certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers as a Sommelier. She is a member of the wine and spirits team at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas and writes about wine and spirits for EscapeHatchDallas.com.