by Alex Gonzalez
Located clandestine on Clover Street, which is hidden between Commerce and Canton in Deep Ellum, is Deep Ellum Distillery, which officially opened its tasting room to the public this past weekend. In the tasting room, guests can try a selection of the distillery’s signature cocktails, including the Route 66 and the Strawberry Basil Mule. Guests can also try the distillery’s infused vodka drinks, with options ranging from pineapple to dill pickle.
Deep Ellum Distillery is the brainchild of John Rearden, who is also the founder of Deep Ellum Brewing Company. Rearden conceived the Deep Ellum Distillery about three years ago, and later recruited Reade Huddleston as the head distiller about a year and a half ago.
On an exclusive preview night for the media, Huddleston is clearly excited for the public to finally get to see the tasting room and learn about the distilling process.
“I anticipate that Deep Ellum Distillery will have a really fun, lively atmosphere, where people can actually come interact with our products and learn a little bit about how everything’s made,” Huddleston says.
At age 26, Huddleston has developed an impressive resume, which boasts a Master of Science degree in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. He has also worked as a distiller in distilleries in Kansas City, MO and in Alberta in Canada. Given his extensive background in the realm of vodka, Huddleston is able to tie back the distilling process to any field of education.
“I have never once been in a class or educational situation where I couldn’t relate it back to distilling,” Huddleston says. “You want to talk about the microbiology of it? I deal with yeast everyday. You want to talk about the hard chemistry of it? I deal with azeotropic points during the distillation process. You want to talk about the math of it? I’m always calculating how much grain I need, how many bottles I need, etc. You want to talk about the politics? Obviously, alcohol is heavily politicized. You want to talk about the social interaction? Just right here, right now, we’re having a good time and enjoying drinks. This is what distilling is all about, it’s fun.”
It is evident that Huddleston knows the distillation process like the back of his hand. Huddleston believes that despite people’s’ differences, most conflicts can ultimately be resolved with good drinks and good company.
“People at the U.N. sit and try to accomplish world peace, but is world peace really worth it if at the end of the day, you can’t get a decent drink?,” Huddleston asks. “You can sit and watch C-Span all day, and you see all of these lawmakers arguing and complaining to each other. You know where the deals get made? They get made at the bar after hours where they just share drinks and figure all of this stuff out.”
Huddleston notes that the distillation process is about recognizing both the past and the future. He believes that Deep Ellum is highly representative of this concept.
“Deep Ellum is a happening place, but it’s also got a lot of history behind it,” Huddleston says. “During prohibition, so many busts occurred in Deep Ellum. Deep Ellum is this place that has both an interesting history and has an awesome future ahead.”
Since signing on as head distiller, Huddleston has been able to make a home for himself in Deep Ellum. He walks to work from his downtown apartment every single day.
“It takes me about 20 minutes to walk to work,” Huddleston says. “A lot of people tell me, ‘Reade, you’re crazy for walking in this heat,’ but I like walking to work because I get to see all kinds of stuff and I just get to feel the neighborhood. I could close my eyes, cut off all the sounds and smells, and I would be able to tell if I were in Deep Ellum just by feeling the area in which I’m walking.”
With the Deep Ellum Distillery officially open to the public, Huddleston hopes that it will help Deep Ellum continue to pull in a variety of unique, fascinating individuals.
“I don’t want us to just sell out, and I don’t want us to lose our roots,” Huddleston says. “We’re seeing a big influx of happy, interesting people exploring Deep Ellum, and I want to keep that influx coming.”