The legend behind Enchanted Rock Vodka
STORY BY DAVID LANSING
There are dozens of legends associated with Enchanted Rock—the mysterious pink granite dome in the Texas Hill Country near Fredericksburg—which also lends its name to a winsome vodka distilled just down the road at Rebecca Creek. Some say the rock is a portal to other worlds. Others say that anyone brave enough to spend the night on the rock will become invisible. But here’s my favorite story: Sit quietly atop Enchanted Rock, listening closely to the natural sounds around you, and life will slow, the stars stand still in the night, and, for a few wonderful minutes, time will seem to stop.
Steve Ison, CEO and founder of San Antonio-based Rebecca Creek Distillery and Enchanted Rock Vodka, can’t exactly vouch for that particular story, but he likes the idea of it (as do I) and says the same can be said for contemplatively sipping a glass of what may well be one of the finest vodkas not only in Texas but anywhere in the world. “I like to watch people the first time they try our vodka neat,” says Ison. “There’s kind of a pattern to it. First they take a small sip, stare at the glass for a minute like they’re having a revelation, and then take an even smaller second sip and linger over it. That’s the magic taking over. What they’re tasting is a very creamy, soft, ultra-clean vodka. What they’re not tasting are sugars or glycerine or any harsh, unnatural flavors. They’re not getting that medicinal taste you get from so many vodkas.”
That’s because Enchanted Rock is made in small, hand-crafted batches using a German copper distillation system that, in effect, distills the vodka 10 times, removing even the most minuscule impurities. Most of the world’s vodkas, says Ison, are made very quickly in enormous quantities in stainless steel. The whole process can be done in an afternoon. But Rebecca Creek wanted to use old-world distilling techniques that take a lot of time and a lot of expensive equipment, starting with a German Christian Carl copper pot still.
Everybody knows that cheap booze delivers the most ghastly hangovers. But not everyone knows why. “It’s all the impurities and congeners in cheap alcohol,” says Ison. Not to get too technical, but congeners are the substances in alcohol that shouldn’t be there. Like methanol, acetone, and acetaldehyde. Like most people, I have no idea what acetaldehyde is, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want any in my vodka, and you probably don’t either.
Some other ultra-premium vodka producers, like Stoli, also make vodka this way. The difference is that Enchanted Rock Vodka costs a fraction of what the other guys charge. As a result, even though Enchanted Rock Texas Vodka has only been around for a little over a decade, it’s garnered a lot of attention, winning such awards as the Platinum Medal at the SIP Award International Spirits Convention and a silver medal at the Los Angeles International Spirits Award. The review site Vodkaphiles gave Enchanted Rock five out of five stars, noting that it was “one of the two best corn vodkas in the world…and has perfect balance. Blindfolded, I would have thought this to be a very classic Russian vodka, which is quite a feat and is testimony to the skill of the distiller.”
It’s kind of a slog sorting through all the vodkas out there (over 400 different labels are sold in Texas alone), but not only is Enchanted Rock the fastest growing vodka in Texas (almost doubling in sales the last two years), it’s one of the fastest growing vodkas in the country. “Tito’s has been around a little longer, but we plan on giving them a bit of competition in the next 10 years,” jokes Ison.
Rebecca Creek also makes a peach vodka. Why peach? Ison says it made sense considering the other thing that draws people to Fredericksburg in addition to Enchanted Rock State Park, are the many peach stands lining the highways selling juicy Texas Hill Country peaches, like Elberta, Majestic, Big Red, and Flame Prince that prized for their flavor. “It just seemed natural to produce a peach vodka,” says Ison, noting that the most popular cocktail ordered at the distillery bar is Peach on the Beach, made with peach vodka, blueberry lemonade, muddled mint, and a squeeze of lime.
That said, Enchanted Rock Peach Vodka is distilled using the same proprietary 28-degree frost filtration process as its big brother, Enchanted Rock Vodka. And the peach infusion is subtle. “It’s not a sweet bomb,” says Ison. “Like our straight vodka, it’s very clean and has a soft, creamy mouth feel that finishes with a warm, slightly spicy kick.” In addition to using it for Peach on the Beach cocktails, Ison says it works well in peach vodka martinis, cosmopolitans, and even on the rocks with a splash of soda.
But let’s get back to the legends of Enchanted Rock the granite dome. “When it came time to name our vodka, we were naturally drawn to Hill Country’s most famous resident, the park,” says Ison, “and all the stories and legends that have been passed down about Enchanted Rock for hundreds of years. They say sacrifices were made atop the rock and that ghosts roam about, but if you go there what really strikes you is how peaceful and spiritual it feels. There’s a warmth and a glow that just seems to emanate from Enchanted Rock that just makes you feel good. And I like to think the same can be said from sipping Enchanted Rock vodka.”
We’ll drink to that.