If you go to your local Oklahoma liquor store you’ll currently find exactly two Oklahoma Bourbons on the shelf and they both come from the same place: Scissortail Distillery. I recently spoke with Garrett, owner of Scissortail, about the company and its line of products which already includes more than just Bourbon, and they aren’t done adding to the roster yet.
Old Russia Distillery was Oklahoma’s first and produced an Oklahoma Vodka called Metore’s. When Old Russia closed, Garret was one of the few around here that wanted to step into the industry to keep the state on the distilled spirits map. In 2011, Garret founded Twister Distillery in Moore and set off making vodka before bringing its whiskey, Bison Bourbon, to market. After the Twister partners went their separate ways near the end of 2012, Garrett created Scissortail Distillery. When an auction was held to sell off the equipment from a defunct Arkansas distillery, Garret was the sole bidder and snagged the whole shebang for only $5,000.
Scissortail was created in January of 2013 and their first Bourbon hit the shelves in May of that year after just 3 months of aging. The quick turn time was made possible by moving from a combination of 30-gallon and standard 53-gallon barrels to smaller 5-gallon barrels which helped age that juice much faster. In addition to Scissortail Bourbon, the distillery began producing Oklahoma Land Rum, a clear rum distilled from molasses, and Black Kettle Gin. Scissortail then teamed up with Article 15, a clothing company founded by U.S Military Veterans, and produced Leadslingers Bourbon.
Today, Scissortail and Leadslingers are still aged in new 5-gallon barrels for 3 months before being transferred to used 15-gallon barrels and aged for an additional 5 months. While I was suspicious that the second stage of aging should cause the whiskey to fall out of the ‘Bourbon’ category, Garret said that he had confirmed the classification is acceptable, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and roll with it (although I’m still thinking he should go the Maker’s 46 route and market it as a finished Bourbon just to be safe). Scissortail is a high-corn mash bill which Garret says better lends itself to quick aging. Leadslingers is a similar build, but the corn has been dialed back and smoked peat rye is included in the mash bill. Currently these two releases are available in around 15 states, including states on both coasts, and Garret is working on expanding distribution even more.
Things got interesting as our conversation moved to the topic of contract distilling. Scissortail has moved into this space in a big way by distilling its current line of 4 whiskeys for various parties including an undisclosed Tennessee company and porn star Joanna Angel (you can check out my favorite performance of hers here). Scissortail will be distilling Doom Bourbon for Miss Angel which should be an interesting pour as it’ll be made from a blue corn mash bill. Getting into the contract game is a very interesting, and potentially very profitable, move as the Bourbon boom has brought on a ton of start ups looking to buy new and aged distillate as they ramp up for their own in-house products. This large amount of demand has maxed out some producers and new contracts have been increasingly difficult to find. Scissortail also offers a much lower minimum contract which makes it easier for smaller operations to get in the mix. The fact that we may have Oklahoma juice moving across the country and being branded will be incredibly interesting to watch.
Scissortail has a ton of projects coming down the pipe, so many that it was hard to keep track as Garret enthusiastically jumped from one topic to another. The Leadslingers Bourbon will soon be joined by others in its product line with a Cinnamon Whiskey called ‘Napalm’ (think Fireball, but probably better, and from Oklahoma) being released this fall. The next couple of months will also see the release of what Garret referred to as “Christmas in a bottle”, a barrel-aged spiced rum called ‘Black Flag’, and even a line of beers.
Leadslinger’s beer will feature a Pilsner, a Stout, and a Wheat beer. Garret stated they will be very simple, abiding by the German Beer Purity Law, and (at least for now) the company won’t be doing any barrel aged releases. I didn’t hide my disappointment well when I heard that last piece of information, I mean, you’ve got a distillery full of whiskey aging in barrels AND you are making beer, let’s get that brew in some barrels and make some exciting stuff happen! Luckily we have some other breweries taking advantage of the locally sourced barrels like Elk Valley with their Bourbon Barrel Mashie. Garret, if you’re reading this, please put some of that beer in some of those barrels, and heck, maybe even put some of your whiskey in some of those barrels after you take that beer out, New Holland style! Anyways, I’ve gotten off track.
Our conversation led to one last, unexpected, topic: chemical reactors (I know, I didn’t see it coming either). The classic question of “how do I age this stuff faster without it tasting like I tried to age it faster” has always been a hot topic in the booze world, and nothing has really nailed it yet. Well, Garret has been talking to Lost Spirits and is planning on implementing one of their age reactors which claims to create the same chemical reactions that decades in a barrel produces, but in just a matter of weeks…you know… with science! I won’t try to explain the whole thing here, so check out this Wired article if you want to learn more about this tech and its history. When I confessed to Garret that this whole thing sounds incredibly sketchy to me, Garret admitted that he felt the same way until he sent Lost Spirits a sample of his new make and was sent back what was undeniably the same sauce, but with way more age than would have been possible given the turn time. The process makes a lot of sense for test runs and wanting to get a rough idea of how a new distillate will progress, but when it comes to legit products coming to market, I’m still not sold. This will be a very interesting endeavor to keep our eye on, especially if some big boys in the industry begin exploring the same avenue. I can’t wait to taste the results.
A big thanks to Garret for letting me burn some of his incredibly busy day. We’ll be looking forward to the new Scissortail products hitting the shelf and you better believe we’ll review as much of it as we can. Hopefully some day we’ll be able to make it down to Moore to get some sweet pics of the operation (maybe even that crazy reactor thing). So until then, keep your eye out for more Oklahoma whiskeys, beers, and other great booze as Scissortail continues to grow.