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Heirloom Wheat Brings New Life To A Central Texas Farm, And To A Local Whiskey

Forest and Kim Starr/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Heirloom wheat seeds. These seeds were harvested in Hawaii, but Wes Perryman is trying to do the same thing at his farm in Central Texas, with the help of an Austin-based whiskey distillery.

From Texas Standard:

Most whiskey distillers will likely say that “aging” is a crucial part of their process. Aging is when the spirit is left to sit in a barrel, sometimes for years. The older the spirit, the better it will likely taste. But for Austin-based distillery, Still, it’s the grain from which the whiskey comes that also matters. Still uses 100-year-old heirloom wheat, which can be hard to come by. So it asked a Texas farmer to grow it.

Fifth-generation Central Texas farmer, Wes Perryman, lives on land passed down from his grandfather, in Moody, Texas. He grew corn, cotton and wheat before he started growing heirloom wheat, which, in his world, is considered an alternative crop.

The distillery preserved its own batch of heirloom seeds in a freezer before giving them to Perryman. Some of its varieties of heirloom wheat seeds haven’t been grown for about 100 years, Perryman says.  

“And a lot of these are just very ‘dinosaur’ wheat, basically, is the best way I can think to describe it,” he says.

Perryman says he was worried, at first, that he would make a mistake.

“It was a pretty scary deal when they handed it off to me,” Perryman says. “Like, I hope I don’t mess this up, you know? I hope this works out.”

He says the 17 pounds of each variety of seeds Still gave him were the largest single source of each in the world.

Next year, Perryman hopes to produce over 200 pounds of seeds, which means he can then plant more wheat than he did the year before. That would benefit him and Still.

“I look forward to being a part of the tasting process,” Perryman says.

Listen to the rest of the story in the player above.

Written by Chloe Bennett.

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