I can’t think of many better things to do on a Friday afternoon than visit a good whiskey distillery and sample their fare. Still Austin now has my attention. This is the fifth Texas distillery I’ve been to this winter and I am happy to say it did not disappoint.
I got a flight of three to taste and I got a special taste of an unreleased product coming this fall. More on that in a bit. Still Austin is kind of out of the way in an industrial park south of downtown. I’ve only been to one other in this type of setting – Oola in Seattle. But the industrial, edgy vibe suits Austin. The place is super clean and light and has a nice outdoor area as well as plenty of seats inside. Now for the products.
I am not a whiskey connoisseur, but I have been sippin’ for a lot of years. My comments are based on what I like and who knows if I have any taste, lol. My first choice is the Straight Bourbon Whiskey – nice buttery finish, had some vanilla notes, and smooth. It wasn’t overly flavorful, but flavorful enough to buy a bottle. I also tried the cask strength straight bourbon whiskey and didn’t find it as appealing. I’ve discovered in my travels that I enjoy Rye Whiskey. So I tried the Cognac Finish Rye which is a limited-release bottle. It was not sweet and I tasted floral essences. It was smooth and had a lingering finish. But the best of all is the one not yet available – the 100% Rye. This will be a fan favorite, I’m sure. It will be called The Artist and is expected to be the new flagship bottle. I would have bought it on the spot if it were available. Really nice flavor and super smooth. Be on the lookout for it in the fall.
I’ve been to a dozen or so whiskey distilleries around the country in the last three years. I’ve had some really tasty beverages along the way. Some places are no more than a tasting room in the front of the house with the distillery sitting just beyond the bar. Others have nicely appointed outdoor patios, lots of products and merch to peruse in a gift shop setting, and some have food either prepared there or catered in a food truck or delivered. The most elaborate setting I have encountered is Garrison Brothers with the big lawn, the big wagon tour, the big chairs – it’s big. The smallest I’ve been to was Wood Hat in New Florence, MO. It has about a 10×10 tasting room with a bar and no chairs that fronts the distillery. The barrels are kept in shipping containers in the backyard. It sits on the I-70 frontage road in the shadow of a very large billboard. But they make really good whiskey. The most exciting experience I had was at Westland in SODO, Seattle. I got to taste the first edition of Colere which uses barley grown in the region. This is a superlative whiskey that made me swoon. I kept my head when I found out it is $150 a bottle. But it was the best “tasting” I’ve had.
Distilleries are really fun places to visit as long as you enjoy spirits. Some places have live music on the weekends. Some have events and bottling parties. Most have knowledgeable staff who want to share their own, unique, grain-to-glass story. After all, it is the craft part of the craft distillery that is its essence. Hearing the head distiller talk about how they take grains and make an aromatic spirit is pure artistry. Washington has an eco-grain growing program that certifies that farms are not polluting nearby waters because they are responsibly farming. Distillers try all kinds of variety in their cask wood using wine and beer barrels and aging them in the hot summer weather or in special drying warehouses. They play and they have fun. We are richer for it because we get to sample these sumptuous delights. At Milam & Greene in Blanco, they have a 1000 gallon still! At Still Austin, they have a three-story vertical still – somewhat unique! But the biggest one I’ve seen is over 1300 gallons at Woodinville in WA. Sorry, TX.
All the variety, all the care and effort put into these beverages, and all the people who make it happen; craft and small-batch whiskey and bourbon whiskey are finding a new footing in the consumer market. KY and TN may still dominate the market, but the rest of the pack is coming up strong. Drink on, aficionados, trail members, and sippers. Drink responsibly too.
Find my articles on distilleries as travel destinations here: