Still Austin is a craft distillery in Austin, Texas, that uses locally sourced grains for their bourbon and their gin. Austin, Texas is one of those places that is, well, different. It’s the state capital of Texas, home to the University of Texas, and because of that a hippie town where the marijuana smoke is so thick it is practically a pollutant in the air. A city with magnificent barbecue and Mexican cuisine, and definitely a boozy city with one restaurant that only allows one Margarita per customer because of the amount of pure grain alcohol in it. A city where you will find conservative politicians rubbing elbows with lesbians making out because the food and the booze is so good at this particular place. A city that has a street called Guadeloupe (pronounced Guadal-loop in Austin) that has eclectic shops and restaurants with signs proclaiming to “Keep Austin Weird.” This is a city just screaming for a local distillery, and now they have one. Still Austin opened in 2017, at apparently just the right time. And rather than using a generic label proclaiming this is a Texas bourbon, they use a wonderful work from a local Austin artist that definitely fits a bourbon coming from Austin.
I tried their main bourbon release, the Musician, at a restaurant in Baton Rouge and thought it was pretty good, so when I found a bottle I was definitely willing to take a chance that this might be good. One of the unique things about Still Austin is that they have only sold their own products; they didn’t source bourbon from anywhere, in definite Austin, Texas pride fashion. They started selling moonshine and gin while their bourbon came of age. They source their number three char oak barrels from International Stave in Kentucky. Their bourbon mashbill is 70% white corn (from which Tortillas are made in that part of Texas), 25% Elbon Rye, and 5% Wildfire malted barley. Elbon Rye has been adapted by the Oklahoma Agricultural Station to grow in hotter climates such as Texas and is often planted to feed deer and cattle during the winter months. So Still Austin’s use of locally sourced grains is definitely true down to the unique type of rye they are using. Their cask strength bottling of their bourbon is aged stated as at least two years old and is 118 proof. I would bet they are barrelling their bourbon at 115 proof. I paid $52 for this bottle locally.
The color on this is a solid amber; rather dark for its age. On the swirl is a nice film with fairly thick oily legs. On the nose is a ton of caramel, with some nice hints of vanilla, baking spice, brown sugar, and a hint of orange zest. On the palate are notes of caramel chews, maple syrup, both rye and baking spices, and hint of herbal tea. While the rye notes are there, they are subtle and not overly grassy, which is a positive for me. On the finish, this bourbon is very spicy, but with hints of cherries and seasoned oak in the background.
This is a good bourbon, but what is startling to me is that it has this kind of flavor profile with only a two year old age statement. This really drinks a lot older than that. I have found a lot of Texas bourbons to be over-oaked, as if the Texas heat, which accelerates aging in a barrel, did too much making the bourbon a one note wonder. One such bourbon from Texas I have used as an educational tool in tastings to say this is what oak notes taste like by themselves. Maybe Still Austin’s choice of number 3 char rather than 4 or 5 is the right one for the Texas climate, as their cask strength bourbon is far from a one note wonder. It has some oak, but it is not overpowering. Yet, it is remarkable how much the Texas heat accelerated the aging process for this bourbon, developing color and character very quickly. Also, even though this is craft bourbon, it doesn’t taste craft; it doesn’t have that youthful bitterness. Normally, I don’t give a lot of credence to awards from festivals, but this bourbon got double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and tasting this I understand why.
This bottle is definitely worth picking up, and I will be watching for future releases from Still Austin.