Panther City Distillery, in Fort Worth, Texas, is the home of a single product, and it’s not what you’re expecting, which is whiskey. These guys are making vodka, called Hell’s Half Acre 1885, and it only gets stranger from there.
Hell’s Half Acre 1885 is made not from corn, wheat, or potato, but rather from cassava root. Yes, cassava. Says the company, “When the cassava root is crushed then dried into a powdery state it is then called tapioca starch; after saccharification this organic tapioca starch combined with naturally occurring enzymes produces more than double the amount of fermentable sugars than in your standard corn, grain, or potato fermentation. A rich harvest of starches converts into an abundant amount of sugars yielding a smooth, sweet, floral scented vodka.” The vodka is then distilled 6 times through a 21-plate copper column still.
OK tapioca fans, let’s give it a whirl!
As promised by the distillery, it’s a sweet vodka, but not overwhelmingly so. The nose is plenty bracing, with gentle medicinal notes complementing a gentle herbaceousness and just a hint of spun sugar. The palate initially comes across as fairly sweet, with a brown sugar/caramel note dominating, but this doesn’t last for more than a second or two. In short order, the pungency of menthol and petrol rise to the fore, with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg (perhaps readable as “florals” per the official description) adding a dusting of the exotic to the experience. This isn’t enough to really change the experience much, and indeed it ultimately leaves the drinker with a bit of a jumbled experience on the palate. On the whole, however, there’s enough here to recommend Hell’s Half Acre as a solid everyday vodka — particularly if you plan to pair it with your vanilla pudding.
B+ / $20