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Railean Rum makes spirit with swashbuckling Gulf Coast roots

By by erica rodriguez
Feb. 7, 2011 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 8, 2011 at 8:09 p.m.

Railean Distillers, founded by Kelly Railean, offers three types of rums and will add a blue agave this week. The agave is the only made-in-Texas drink of its kind.

IF YOU GOWHAT: Railean Distillers and tasting room. Tours are made by appointment only and hosted by Kelly Railean, the owner and rum-maker.

WHEN: Tours are made by appointment only and can be arranged by calling Railean at 713-545-2742.

WHERE: 341 Fifth St., San Leon

COST: Tours are free, but bottles can be purchased on-site or in local Spec's liquor stores.

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN THE AREAThe Kemah Boardwalk: This touristy stroll near the water's edge is lined with carnival-type rides, sea-themed shopping and fine dining. It's about 15 minutes from San Leon and not too far from Houston. The address is at 215 Kipp Ave. For more information, call 281-334-9880 or visit www.kemahboardwalk.com.

Galveston Island: Catch a jazz band along the seawall or schedule a walking tour of the island. Lounge at a bed and breakfast for the weekend. For more information, call 1-888-GAL-ISLE (425-4753) or visit www.galveston.com for more ideas.

Kelly Railean was sailing around the tropics when she got a spirited idea: She would make her own liquor by hand.

We're not talking about the backyard still, here. Railean, a pirate-history buff and wine connoisseur, wanted to make rum - a molasses-based sprit with swashbuckling roots in the Gulf Coast.

So, she waved aside the criticisms of madness, gathered molasses sweet enough to bake cookies with, oak barrels, a copper still and made the first rum distillery in the state to create the liquor completely by hand.

Railean Distillers is nestled in San Leon, a small unincorporated community near Galveston Bay affectionately nick-named a "small fishing town with a large drinking problem." The area is dotted with dive bars and has a sweet history of molasses trading and sugarcane farming.

"People were drinking rum here long before they were making whiskey," Railean said.

Railean is the first woman master distiller in the state and produces about 3,000 cases of liquor a year. The batches are small, focusing on quality instead of quantity, handmade and one of the first to use the process domestically.

Along with working the distillery, Railean gives personalized weekend tours where she'll meander through the whole rum-making process from the 300-gallon stainless steel fermentation tanks to bottling equipment and American Oak barrels used to lace the aged beverage with a woody taste. The 20-45 minute tour ends in the distillery tasting room where customers can down their own half-ounce serving of each available blend.

The distillery has three rums: an aged Reserve XO, a light Texas White and Small Cask Reserve. This week, she'll debut a blue agave spirit, the only one made in Texas. Each are plastered with the Railean mascot: the Monk parakeet, a fowl native to the area.

Today, the distillery hosts everyone from bikers to tourists, fishing-people and baby-boomers looking for a rustic take at the behind-the-scenes charm of the piratey drink.

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