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.

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.

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.

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

  • We walked in to the @elevatepeople store in Kearney, Nebraska, by mistake. We'd been looking for a coffee shop. Elevate wasn’t a coffee shop, but what we found was a store full of beautiful, handmade leather goods. These ethically sourced products were actually produced around the world by artisans who are working to escape poverty. Elevate, a non-profit, provides them with small, low interest loans to start their businesses. When the money is repaid, it is then re-invested into the same community to help another person start a business. It's a purchase you can feel good about.
  • Florida is a wonderful place to go in the winter. There you'll find sunshine and warmth while much of the rest of the country is experiencing the chill of winter. We love seeing the plants and flowers in bloom when we visit.
  • When our daughter, Meghan, was younger, she wanted an affordable, easy to store souvenir from her travels with her mom. She settled on pencils. Over the years, she's collected a couple hundred pencils from various destinations including the ones that others have given to her. She keeps them in a jar in her apartment, creating a great conversation piece.
  • We won't lie, our cruise aboard the @CelebrityCruise Edge was more about the ship than the destination. We loved sitting in The Retreat while watching others head ashore for excursions. But let's be honest, we really loved just sitting in the Retreat, soaking in the beautiful sun.
  • There is nothing quite like preparing a perfect dish in your own kitchen. Courtesy of @thechefandthedish, Ann prepared a traditional Spanish paella with Cyndi Kane, a.k.a. Ree Drummond's BFF Hyacinth. Sure, learning to make the dish was fun. Savoring the meal, and the friendship that went with it, was the best part of that great afternoon.
  • In the chilly, pre-dawn light of an early spring day on the Platte River in central Nebraska you can be sure of one thing: soon you'll witness one of nature's greatest spectacles, tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes taking to the air for a day of foraging for food. If you have never witnessed this incredible sight, you must make sure you @visitnebraska so you can experience this for yourself. @visitKearney
  • A good cocktail is an experience. Instead of just having a drink to throw back, we love savoring a well-crafted beverage. Something we love about @celebritycruise is that good cocktails are easy to find. We aren't huge drinkers. Instead, we are strong believers in quality over quantity.
  • Something that always impresses us is the sheer size of a cruise ship. The fact that something that large can move and float and provide great service never ceases to amaze. But one of our favorite views is when we're docked next to another ship, and walking down a pier suddenly feels like walking through a canyon.

Second most popular blog in Pawhuska