Black-eyed peas deliver prosperity in the new year — but they also can bring, as one Texas farmer found out, a boozy good time. Now, he’s distilling with them to make vodka at BlackEyed Distilling in Fort Worth, which recently hosted a grand opening celebration.
Master distiller Trey Nickels got the idea for making the vodka after challenging years working on his family’s land in Muleshoe, a Pandhandle town northwest of Lubbock, and enduring drought and poor crop yields. He decided to put the peas to a very different use instead, moving on from farming, and has found that they contribute a clean taste in BlackEyed Distilling’s signature product, BLK EYE Vodka.
“We knew black-eyed peas were loaded with the starch necessary to make the fermented mash that can be distilled into liquor. We just needed to prove it. So we put the concept to the test,” according to a press release from the distillery.
The vodka is made with a blend of Texas-sourced non-genetically modified black-eyed peas and corn, distilled 22 times in a 21-foot column still and brought to 40 percent alcohol by volume. Nickels has noticed that black-eyed peas are suited for making vodka, as corn and potatoes are, because distilling them “produces a neutral flavor that’s also ideal for mixing.”
His project, originally TreyMark Black Eyed Vodka, is a family affair with his mother, Deborah Nickels, serving as the distillery’s tasting room manager. Nestled in a circa-1910 firehouse in Fort Worth, BlackEyed Distilling will start offering regular tours and tastings starting this weekend, and visitors will be able to try the vodka, as well as other small-batch spirits made there, in cocktails. They can also take bottles to go.
“Operating a distillery in an old firehouse does have at least one advantage,” according to BlackEyed. “That hole in the floor where the firemen’s pole used to be? It just happens to be the perfect place to fit our copper and steel pot still.”
BlackEyed Distilling is located at 503 Bryan Ave. in Fort Worth, for the next time you’re ever in that neck of the woods. The BLK Eye Vodka also is on shelves at a couple of Spec’s (Highland Park and Arbor Walk) in Austin.
For more information, visit blackeyed.vodka.