Truth be told, I hadn’t planned to do any day drinking when we rolled into Little Rock, Arkansas. But the federal government shutdown had shuttered the Clinton Library that we’d intended to visit so what’s a boy to do? We needed a backup plan fast and happily discovered Rock Town Distillery.

The first legal distillery in Arkansas since Prohibition, Rock Town offers a great bar area with well-crafted cocktails. We sat here for a few minutes waiting for our tour, and I could easily envision spending our afternoon right in this spot.

Rock Town Distillery bar

As appealing as it was, however, we didn’t go to spend the day at the bar. We’d gone for a tour and tasting, because frankly, we didn’t know much about distilling spirits and we’re always up for learning something new.

The tour of Rock Town Distillery

The tour started, and our first stop was the room where the spirits go to age. Over the course of several months to many years, the clear spirits put in these oak barrels become whiskey like bourbon or rye.

barrels at Rock Town Distillery

When we walked in, I immediately noticed the room was quite cool. Soon, the guide explained that this room has no climate control other than opening or closing windows. Instead, the temperature fluctuations that occur throughout the year help in the aging process of the spirits. Apparently, Little Rock has a great climate for whiskey making because the temperature changes make the barrels slowly expand and contract, thus moving the spirits across the walls of the oak barrel allowing them to pick up flavors and character from the toasted wood. As fascinating as that is, I just said a quiet thanks that we visited in cool December instead of hot July.

aging barrels at Rock Town Distillery

The tour continued with a discussion of the ingredients in the spirits. Corn is the primary grain used, along with a mix of other grains.

Rock Town Distillery ingredient display

The grains are cooked into a mash which is left to ferment before being distilled. For that part of the process, we headed to a different room, the one that houses the still.

Rock Town distillery still

After the mash has fermented, it’s time to take the alcohol. The mash is boiled in the still, and the alcohol vapors are collected. They condense and go into a storage container. Then, the still is cleaned before the alcohol is boiled a second time, further purifying it. At that point it is vodka and can be bottled, put in barrels to age into one of the whiskeys they make, or distilled again through some aromatics to make gin. Who knew gin is basically flavored vodka?

Our Tasting at Rock Town Distillery

After the 30-minute tour, we went back to the bar area and began the tasting portion of the day. We sat at tables and they gave each of us a little plastic cup (like the ones you take cough syrup with) into which they poured samples. They also provide a larger plastic cup into which we could dump anything we didn’t want to drink. I’m glad we had that. Not because the spirits weren’t tasty, but because even 10 small samples was too much for us.

Rock Town Distillery sample taste

After we tried our second sample, we saw a basket of cheesy puffs go by. It turns out the bar offers a large basket of these crunchy orange treats for only $1, so we bought one. We sat, chatting, munching and listening as the process behind each sample was explained. As we neared the end of the tasting, we also neared the end of the surprisingly delicious cheesy puffs. Ann demonstrated her true love for me when she let me have the last one.

Before leaving, we stopped and looked in Rock Town Distillery’s shop where you can buy the spirits you just sampled. The prices even seemed very reasonable.

Rock Town Distillery shop

We purchased one bottle that we plan to give to someone special for Christmas. Yes, we are starting our shopping early this year. I just hope we can remember where we put it when December rolls around.


Tours and tastings are offered three times a day (Tuesday through Sunday) starting at 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. For more information, visit the Rock Town Distillery website

PIN FOR LATER

  • Just over two years ago, we stopped in Pawhuska to have lunch at Ree Drummond's @PWMercantile. From the person opening the door for us to the folks tending the line giving us water, we felt welcome from the moment we set foot in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.⁣
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But it turns out it wasn't just @thepioneerwoman and her husband, Ladd, who went above and beyond to welcome visitors. No, it turns out what they did was just par for the course in this town that's home to some of the friendliest and most welcoming people we've met in all our travels. ⁣
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So we bought a house there. We got it in part, so we could be a part of the community we've come to love. But we also got it so we could help welcome folks to town and let them know how glad we are they came to visit. Come and see Pawhuska. And when you do, stay awhile.
  • Fried dill pickles are a little different in North Dakota than they are in most other places we've been. Instead of just dipping some dill chips in batter, dropping them in the fryer, and then serving them in a basket with ranch, the folks there take their time and make a dish to remember.⁣
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They start with a dill pickle spear, wrap that in Havarti cheese, then put a wonton wrapper around it all. Then, they fry it, and slice it open just so before serving them alongside a spicy aioli dipping sauce. We had these at a complimentary meal at Outlaws Bar and Grill in @visitwilliston, North Dakota.⁣
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Let's be honest, these pickles are just one of many reasons we look forward to our return to @northdakotalegendary next year.
  • Have you ever had the chance to watch a cruise ship come into or leave port? These massive ships, often 1,000 feet or more long, can maneuver themselves by the dock so gently that you don't even realize you've stopped (or started) moving.⁣
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In Bermuda, we had the chance to watch the Norwegian Escape depart. We watched as she pushed away from the dock, then spun 180 degrees on a point before heading out to sea.⁣
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We've seen ships do this dozens of times. In fact, we've been on ships and have been part of this type of maneuvering dozens of times. And yet, given the sheer size of the vessels, it never ceases to impress.
  • You know you want to. Do it. Just book the ticket and go. At the end of your life, you likely won't remember most of the stuff you bought in 2019, but you will always remember the journey you took and the experiences you had. So enrich your life and go. We've never regretted spending money for a trip.
  • This just might be the sweetest, best pecan roll we've ever had. At the @PWMercantile, they bake these delicious treats daily. Covered in a luscious caramel and finely chopped pecans, these rolls are the stuff dreams are made of. Have you had one?
  • Smack in the middle of Portland, Oregon, we found the International Rose Test Garden. Set on 4.5 acres of land, the garden offers visitors a chance to see 10,000 rose bushes from about 650 different varieties. ⁣
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We spent more than an hour walking the carefully tended paths, snapping photos, and just enjoying the beautiful flowers. Our visit here made us glad that we literally scheduled time on this trip to stop and smell the roses.
  • Set in a renovated middle school in Grinnell, Iowa, Hotel Grinnell is one of our favorite boutique hotels. The owner thoughtfully designed the space and included touches from school including “Hall Pass” key card sleeves, and a bar cleverly named, “The Periodic Table.” We wrote a story on this hotel, you can read all about it on our blog. Link in bio. @hotelgrinnell #hosted @traveliowa
  • Everyone has a happy place, a spot where the world melts away and a sense of relaxation and calm settles in. For Steve, this place is on board a cruise ship, out on open water. He can spend hours sitting and watching the water, the ship's wake, and looking out for other ships. He loves soaking up the sun and fresh ocean air while cruising along on the sea. ⁣
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What's your happy place? ⁣
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