The South Texas Distillery in Sandia, Texas is back in the news again. As we reported last year, it was getting rave reviews for it’s two handcrafted vodkas, "Wild Rag" and "Texas Torch." Since then, distiller Royel Aguilar has created a new flavor that has gained him international recognition.It’s called Mesquite Bean Vodka, and it just won a silver medal at the San Diego International Spirit and Cocktail Competition.
Aguilar entered his new vodka last fall and had forgotten about it until they received the news a few weeks ago. He said, "I couldn’t believe it when my wife told me about it.. it took a couple of days for me to be even able to grasp it and get a handle on that." South Texas Distillery will have been in business just two years this coming July. So winning a medal in a prestigious competition is pretty satisfying.
After scoring hits with his cane sugar and cinnamon vodkas, Aguilar was looking for something really different. He considered prickly pears and jalapenos, but those had already been done. He said, "One day just out of the blue I said you know what, how about mesquite beans? And so I did some research on it and found out you know, that basically, they are edible and stuff like that."
And they’re just what he was looking for. Mesquite beans are about 25% sugar which makes them ideal for fermenting. No one else has used them. And there are plenty of mesquite trees here in South Texas. But getting permission to sell mesquite bean vodka. As a task that took five long months. Since no one had ever made it before, they had to get permission from various state and federal agencies. Fortunately, his wife Lupita is an attorney. So while he perfected the recipe, she handled the paperwork. And that included debunking some old wives tales. Lupita said, There are a lot of misconceptions out there, with regard to whether or not the mesquite bean is something that people can consume, but the key to this particular product is that you must harvest off the tree, and not off the ground."
What started as a hobby for Royel, has turned into a 7-day a week job for the Aguilars, but they’re not complaining. They have poured the slab for a new, larger distillery to meet the growing demand for their vodkas. They have expanded the tasting room and added live music for all the folks who show up on the weekends to sample their products, and they have lots of new customers showing up every week.
If you would like to check out their top-shelf vodkas, here are links to the tasting room hours and a map, southtexasdistillery.com/contact/.