It’s Not Just Tito’s Vodka That Is Driving Austin’s Distillery Scene
There’s more to Austin, Texas than just live music and world-famous BBQ. Nestled in rolling Hill Country just 25 miles west of Austin is Dripping Springs, a tiny town that’s rapidly becoming the hottest new destination for spirit aficionados. While Tito’s Vodka may be the region’s best-known spirit, there are plenty of other small batch vodkas, gins and rums worth tasting. These four are our can’t-miss picks:
Named for the majestic 500-year-old oak where Stephen F. Austin – the city of Austin’s namesake – signed a border agreement in the 1830’s, Treaty Oak’s sprawling 30-acre distillery is home to some of our favorite spirits.
Graham’s Texas Tea
Treaty Oak’s top seller starts with superior vodka that is five times distilled and five times filtered. The tangy dry tea is imported from the Saleen district of India and sweetened with a subtle touch of cane sugar. Perfect for mixing on a hot summer’s day.
Treaty Oak Reserve Barrel Rum
Aged in first-use American white oak barrels for a minimum of two years in the Texas heat, Treaty Oak’s flagship rum is the winner of Great American Spirits Festival Gold Medal and Microliquor Spirits Triple Gold Medal winner.
Waterloo Antique Gin
Waterloo Antique is distilled with local botanicals including juniper, coriander, anise, lavender, citrus zests, Conroy Texas pecans, and Texas spring water and then aged in first use American white oak barrels. Microliquor Spirits Triple Gold Medal (2012) winner.
This small batch, experimental distillery produces a single gin: 100 proof Austin Reserve Gin. The flavors are complex, but not overpowering. Using a minimalist and precise design, the gin creates broad stimuli that spread across the tongue and palate. Instead of using two or three flowers in the distilling process, Revolution Spirits uses only one — macerating juniper, rosemary, lavender, lemongrass, grapefruit peel and pink peppercorn in the process.
Single Barrel Gin
The Austin Reserve Gin is the heart of the operation but experiments are happening every week in the Single Barrel Gin category. Using different barrels (including those from nearby Jester Brewing) , the series is an exploration of the effect of barrel character on gin over 11 months.
Dripping Springs Vodka first started experimenting with full mash distilling in 2005, trying potatoes and Syrah grapes before finally settling on mid-western sweet non-GMO corn. Nearly a decade later, a distillery tour demonstrates their continued commitment to quality and innovation. Unique small batch copper pot stills allow for maximum copper contact and small quantity production control. The production line offers four products:
Dripping Springs Flagship Ultra-Premium Vodka
This award-winning vodka is micro-distilled over 20 times, mixed with pure, mineral-rich artesian spring water from the Texas Hill Country, and then slow filtered through Swedish activated carbon. The recipient of the Gold Medal at the 2015 Spirits of the Americas competition, Dripping Springs Flagship Ultra Premium Vodka also took home the Vodka Purity Trophy at the 2008 International World Spirits Competition and was named “Gold Best in Class”.
Using reverse osmosis water instead of spring water, 1876 still delivers high quality as shown by the selection for a Double Gold Medal at the 2012 San Francisco Wine and Spirits competition.
Dripping Springs Artisan Gin
Dripping Springs Gin is an artisan contemporary gin using nine botanicals (of which five are public): Juniper, Mexican lime, cardamom, hibiscus, and hand zested orange. After steeping for 48 hours, botanicals are stripped through re-distillation. Award winning as well, this gin took home the 2015 International World Spirits Competition – Silver Outstanding award and a Gold Medal at the 2016 San Francisco Wine and Spirits competition.
At Deep Eddy, the focus is on specialty vodka flavors. Using a column still and deep aquifer water, this vodka is filtered over charcoal six times and then infused with either ruby red grapefruit, lemon, cranberry, peach, or sweet tea. These vodkas work best for mixed drinks, which the distillery also offers in addition to a straight tasting. Two of our favorites:
Ruby Red Grapefruit – Made from a proprietary blend of ruby red grapefruits across America; mix with 2 oz Ruby Red Vodka, 1 oz Silver Tequila, 2 oz Sprite, and 2 oz club soda with a lime garnish to make a delicious “Ruby Red Paloma”.
Sweet Tea – Made from Indonesian whole leaf black tea and lightly sweetened with local clover honey, this popular vodka mixes nicely with lemonade for an alcoholic Arnold Palmer. For a stronger drink, mix in the Deep Eddy’s Lemon Vodka, distilled with all-natural lemon juice.
Planning Your Visit
Dripping Springs is 25 miles west of Austin. From Austin, you’ll either need to rent a car (and bring a responsible driver) or join one of the many distillery-tasting tours that depart daily. Book ahead as weekend distillery tours sell out weeks in advance. Hungry post-tasting? Stop by Via313 pizza for a Detroit-style slice on the way back into town.