The first legitimate hemp-associated product to be produced in Texas is now available for purchase. People are losing their minds over a product called “Sass,” the latest chapter in the long and storied history of cannabis-infused spirits. The first drop of Sass Vodka, containing no actual marijuana, was produced in Colorado and made its way to Austin, Texas, where it’s set to be sold in December.

The Texas Hemp Industries Association (THIA), a non-profit trade organization, has just announced that it will be partnering with Austin-based Green (Craft) Vodka to produce the first-ever Texas-made hemp vodka. Austin is the first city in Texas to pass a law legalizing the production of industrial hemp, and the first to pass a law legalizing the commercial production and distribution of hemp-derived products. Hemp Vodka is expected to hit the market in 4-6 weeks, and will be available in liquor stores and bars throughout the Austin area.

In only a few years, Texas’ first hemp vodka distillery has gone from modest beginnings in a horse barn to booming sales in three states, making it one of the fastest-growing Black distilleries in the country. Their most recent trip was in Austin, Texas.

Highway Vodka, established by partners Ben Williams and Wendell Robbins III, is sold in over 25 locations across Austin, Texas, Georgia, Florida, and California. Williams claimed the business, which is the first Black-owned distillery in Texas, is expanding too fast and that they’re trying to slow down for a second before spreading themselves too thin.

“Because we don’t have any outside investors or anything like that,” Williams said, “I want to make sure I know what I’m doing.”

So what’s the deal with hemp? Because CBD can’t be used in the distillation process, it’s anti-inflammatory qualities are the only thing it contributes to the mix.

Hemp comes more into play in the distilling process itself. When experimenting with the ingredient in initial stages, Williams and Robbins discovered that hemp acts as a “super fuel” to the yeast as it converts sugar from its other main ingredient, corn, into alcohol (which also adds a slightly sweet taste.) The plant that helps make Mary Jane also “keeps the negative stuff down” by helping form an oily layer on top that protects the product from outside influence. The result, Williams said, is a smoother vodka that won’t make the morning after drinking quite so bad.

“It’s not about the taste at all,” Williams said. “I’m my own crash test dummy, so I know that even if I went a little too hard the night before, I won’t have that headache.”

Highway’s adventure began eight years ago in a horse stable in Houston, when two friends decided to try their hand at experimenting with spirits as a pastime. The busy company has experienced a 500 percent year-over-year growth after 9 years of trial and error and “a whole lot of drinking.”

Williams and Robbins continue to run their business out of their original horse stable. (Vodka from the highway)

Williams claims it’s no accident that the two like live music, drinking, and mingling in bars and restaurants; he claims the business would “eat them alive” if they were just in it for the money.

“The most important thing is to enjoy what you’re doing,” Williams added. “Now I have a product that can be used in all of these places where I love being.”

Williams just replied “no” when asked whether he anticipated this sort of short-term increase. Now that business is flourishing, Williams envisions the firm expanding nationally in the next years following a brief reorganization.

While Williams and Robbins are pleased with their accomplishments, the most essential goal is to create a company that can be handed down through the generations. Codi Fuller, Robbins’ daughter, has already begun the tradition; when she took over as Lead Distiller at the age of 26, she became one of the few Black female distillers in the United States.




Codi Fuller, one of Robbins’ daughters, is one of the few female Black distillers in the United States. (Vodka from the highway)

Williams hopes that his younger daughters will follow in his footsteps.

Williams replied, “That’s the dream.” “That’s why you’re constructing it. I’m just hoping people don’t think it’s not cool since it’s dad’s things.”

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