“We're the first distillery south of San Antonio, it's great to be the first of anything,” said Lupita Aguilar about the South Texas Distillery that she and her husband Royel Aguilar created on their property in Sandia. This is where they distill and bottle their own Wild Rag Vodka.
Tucked away down FM 1540, heading east of town is the small building where the entire process happens. “Right now, hands on is how we do everything and will always make the vodka,” said Royel. “With the still that we have now we are able to make 50 gallon batches but will be getting a new still and will be able to distill 150 gallons at a time.” According to Royel, he works about 18 hours a day in order to make each batch of vodka which takes approximately 15 days from start to bottling.
As a means of promotion, Lupita and Royel built a tasting room onto the distillery which opened up on July 15, 2016. “We weren't sure if anyone would come and now we can't keep up,” said Lupita. “The response has been great. We have people that are so educated in vodka and swear by other brands coming in and try it and they really like it,” said Royel. “People love the tasting room.”
Wild Rag Vodka is made using sugarcane as the main ingredient. The Aguilars chose to go with sugarcane due to it's abundance and the concern from many customers about the vodka being gluten free
The Aguilars are only able to sell two bottles per individual per month out of the tasting room and can only serve three drinks per person during their business hours. However, Wild Rag Vodka has been picked up for a distribution deal with L&F Distributors. “We had interest from a company out of Mexico that wanted to be our distributer but we had already made the deal with L&F. But we are now working on a deal with that distributer to branch out into Mexico,” said Royel.
At the moment the distillery is able to make 1,000 bottles a month but will be increasing production to 3,000 bottles a month when the new still is added. Bottles sold in the tasting room cost an even $20.00 with taxes already added to the cost. Bottles bought in stores where there is not a limit on purchases will be at a slight increase in cost to cover the distribution and store's cost of supplying it.
Eventually the Aguilars will be hiring an employee as production expands in order to keep up with the demand. “It has to be somebody who is passionate about doing this because so much work goes into making a great vodka. You can't have someone who is going to give a poor effort because then you'll have bad batches,” said Royel. “Anybody that we hire will need to be here to learn the process from start to finish.” The Aguilars are happy with the response that they have received from the public with several pictures of patrons of the tasting room on their website and Facebook pages. However, the addition of an employee will all Royel a day off to spend with family. Yet it is his dedication that has helped him to create what the public may consider a great Texas-born vodka.
The distillery and tasting room are located at 624 FM 1540 in Sandia, Texas. For more information on Wild Rag Vodka, please visit their website at www.southtexasdistillery.com, or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SouthTexasDistillery.