Historical hooch

Texas spirits maker enters new frontier with Hill Country whiskey distillery

Hill Country spirits maker enters new frontier with whiskey distillery

Luckenbach Road Whiskey Distillery
The new Luckenbach Road Whiskey Distillery opens near Fredericksburg early next year. Rendering courtesy of The Davies Collaborative
Head distiller Emma Kahn
Head distiller Emma Kahn leads the way at the new distillery. Photo courtesy of Luckenbach Road Whiskey Distillery
Luckenbach Road Whiskey Distillery
Head distiller Emma Kahn

A Texas liquor maker with deep roots in the booze industry and the Lone Star State is pioneering a new whiskey distillery near Fredericksburg that’s guaranteed to raise spirits in the Hill Country.

Frontier Spirits — the company behind Pura Vida Tequila that’s run by chairman and founder Stewart Lawrence Skloss, whose family first moved to Texas in 1718 and founded popular watering hole the Buckhorn Saloon in Fredericksburg — has just broken ground on Luckenbach Road Whiskey Distillery.

The new 28,000-square-foot “farm-to-bottle” distillery, located at 21 Luckenbach Rd., just southeast of Fredericksburg, has been years in the making and is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2023.

The distillery will create its signature product, Luckenbach Road Whiskey, a high-end artisanal whiskey that Skloss and his team started bottling in early 2021 and that’s now available in more than 300 liquor stores across Texas.

Tastings of the product began in 2019, with Luckenbach Road Whiskey already garnering a series of industry accolades, including winning Best of Class and Double Gold awards from the Craft Distillers Spirits Competition and a Gold award in the Best Bourbon category from The Fifty Best competition.

In addition to creating its chief alcoholic beverage, the new distillery will also feature a tasting room and a country store called Little Peach, a dandy name that further solidifies the distillery’s Fredericksburg roots.

Frontier Spirits worked with several architecture firms — Kentucky-based long-time bourbon distillery designers Joseph & Joseph + Bravura Architects, Austin-based The Davies Collaborative, and Napa Valley-based winery designer Loren Kroeger — all in an effort to ensure the new distillery will offer a “truly immersible experience” for visitors.  

The distillery has also been working with Texas A&M University’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences to maximize and develop crops specific to the site’s climate and growing conditions.

With the help of agricultural industry experts, Luckenbach Road Whiskey Distillery is cultivating blue, Indian, purple, yellow, and white corns, along with wheat, barley, and rye — all of which will be used to create the brand’s whiskies.

“Caring about what’s in the bottle begins with caring about what’s outside of it,” Skloss says. “We know everything about our operation must be top-notch, from the people that join our team to the way we grow our grains.”

Leading the booze-making side of things is head distiller Emma Kahn, who, as a Luckenbach Road Whiskey release notes, “runs on a combination of intellect, brain power, gut instinct, and perhaps a smidge of liquid courage,” but also brings some “serious industry cred” to the role. She previously worked at distilleries in Dallas-Fort Worth and Central Texas, and is a Certified Specialist of Spirits and holds a Level II Whiskey Sommelier certification.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for me to land an integral role at a pivotal stage in Luckenbach Road Whiskey’s development,” Kahn says. “Plus, the whiskey and I are supported by a company with a proven track record. It’s a very rare, special opportunity and I look forward to giving it my all.”

That proven track record involves much experience in the alcohol industry in Texas. Skloss founded the award-winning ultra-premium Pura Vida Tequila in 2011 with guidance from fellow industry stalwarts John Paul Dejoria, the co-founder of the The Patrón Spirits Company, and Tito Beveridge of Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Likewise, he’s tapped financial and strategic support for Luckenbach Road Whiskey Distillery from other well-known Texans, among them Billy Gibbons, guitarist and lead singer of ZZ Top, who partnered with Waco-based Balcones Distilling last year to create a new whiskey dubbed Tres Hombres.

Also key to the story of Luckenbach Road Whiskey are Skloss’ family connections in the Hill Country. After his ninth great-grandparents settled in Central Texas in 1718, his third great-grandfather, Heinrich “Henry” Ochs, immigrated to Fredericksburg from Germany in 1851, and became one of the town’s first teachers. Later, he founded the Buckhorn Saloon in Fredericksburg, which served the family’s beer and whiskey recipes.

It is that same premium whiskey recipe that will anchor the Luckenbach Road Whiskey Distillery and gain new fans some 170 years after its inception.

“When I read what old newspapers and historical books have to say about my ancestors, it’s clear they left a profound legacy of good spirit, good cheer, good deeds, and good products,” Skloss says. “I can’t think of a more compelling legacy to uphold as we prepare to open Luckenbach Road Whiskey Distillery’s doors.”