I’m not usually a gin drinker — but when it’s something made by a favorite local distillery, it’s hard to resist giving the local gin a try. In this case, we’ve got an American gin by local Still Austin. Going with an American style is an interesting twist on the usual formula — but of course, a rebellious streak seems very on brand for Texas.
Locally owned and operated in Austin, Texas, the Still Austin Whiskey Co. opened its doors in 2017.
Despite being relatively young, Still has the historical distinction of being the first distillery in the city limits of Austin since prohibition. Keeping it local, their plan was to try and use locally grown “heirloom” grains to make a craft spirit that would be unique to Austin.
The company took a different approach from most distillers, in that they decided to offer only product that they themselves have distilled (not re-bottling someone else’s whiskey). To keep the business afloat while waiting for their first product to age, they would rely on infused “white lightning” unaged whiskey. Their plan worked, producing a number of delicious whiskey and gin concoctions before the business finally produced its first 100% locally grown, distilled, aged, bottled, and distributed bourbon in 2019.
This gin starts out as a crop of rye grains that are harvested from the local area surrounding Austin, Texas. They are trucked in and milled on site, producing a slightly coarser-than-usual size of grain that Still Austin thinks is best for encouraging fermentation. After being milled, the grains are cooked, fermented, and distilled in their 50 foot column still.
After the initial distillation, the rye-based spirit is added into a smaller pot still along with an array of botanicals including lemon, juniper, cinnamon, and more. As an American gin, this formula is remarkably light on the juniper compared to the London version that most people are used to. After the components are added, the spirit is distilled, resulting in the gin that we are tasting today.
Back in the day, Still Austin used a custom etched bottle with a very “chill hipster” era Austin vibe. It was different and interesting, and I liked it very much.
The bottle has changed a couple times since then, moving to a slim straight walled cylindrical version for their first bourbon, but they’ve always kept with a tradition of using art from local artists on the labels. That art trend continued with the straight bourbon released earlier this year, even though the bottle changed once more to a more traditional whiskey bottle shape and style.
For this release, the traditional whiskey bottle remains. The body is cylindrical with a slight flare from the base to the shoulder, and then gently rounds at the shoulder to meet the medium length neck. There’s a slight bulge in the neck which makes pouring easier, and the whole thing is capped off with a wood and cork stopper.
At this point, this is the “old” format for their gin label. They’ve updated it more recently, but I was able to snag an older edition for the review. In this version, the label is pretty boring and predictable: an illustration of the components that went into their gin on a white background, and some branding around it. I’ll give it points for being clean and generally appealing, but I know they can (and, recently, did) do better.
As you’d expect of a gin, the liquid is crystal clear with no imperfections or impurities. Pouring a little into the glass, the first aromas I get are a strong hit of lemon, followed by the traditional pine tree-esque juniper, some black pepper, and grapefruit.
That citrus-forward flavor profile is also immediately noticeable as soon as you take a sip. The lemon and grapefruit notes are front and center, followed by just a hint of juniper, and then the spices start to kick in. There’s some cinnamon at first, which is enhanced by the black pepper from the rye grains. And as the spirit sits there, it’s just a pretty steady enhancement of the spices until you reach a butter smooth finish.
Usually, with the addition of some ice, the lighter flavors in a spirit tend to drop out of the profile. Unfortunately, that’s no different here. The citrus is significantly diminished and the juniper is hanging on for dear life compared to where it was before.
A more interesting effect, though, is that the spices are much more prominent. Up front is that a flash of citrus, but that’s quickly followed by some star anise, cinnamon, and black pepper that persist through to the end. It’s bound to make for an interesting take on the cocktails.
I’m not really a Campari fan, to be perfectly honest, but I think the spirit here is doing something interesting and different that I want to give it credit for.
Usually, the juniper is a huge component of the flavor profile and makes its presence known rather forcefully. Since this is an American gin, though, there really isn’t much juniper to accomplish the task — so instead what you have is more of a “guerilla campaign” being waged by the spices. They creep in stealthily and attack after the initial bitter splash of Campari is finished, making for a delicious combination at the end of the experience that makes you want to pick up the glass and try again.
That said, I think this version of a Negroni would be improved with a bit of sugar.
Fizz (Gin & Tonic)
Unlike a Campari, I do actually like Gin & Tonics. Sadly, though, this did not make for my favorite G&T.
The issue is that there are just two ingredients here, so the gin really needs to be on point for it to work well. The tonic water just adds some bitterness and dilution so there needs to be enough (good) flavor from the gin itself. Typically, that’s provided by the juniper… but since that’s such a small component here, it doesn’t make quite the same impression as you’d have with a London gin.
That’s not to say it’s bad. There’s nothing wrong here — it just seems to be missing something in this format.
As an American gin, you expect the flavor profile to take a sharp turn away from the traditional juniper profile, and that’s what you get here. It’s much more citrus forward, with some rye grain spice adding a delicious kick.
I think the cocktails we use to review gins actually did this a disservice, though. The G&T and the Negroni are both cocktails that expect a heavy juniper content, but that’s not what we have here. This is a different beast. And actually, after much trial and error, I think that this is probably best served in a Tom Collins (which we don’t usually use for our reviews). The added lemon juice there restores some of the citrus kick that you lose with the dilution — and as someone who is (again) not a huge gin fan, I had multiple of these and loved every one.
|Still Austin Whiskey Co. Gin|
Produced By: Still Austin Whiskey Co.Production Location: Texas, United States
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $23.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
I like citrus, I like spice, and I like this because it has both of those things. It’s a cocktail in the glass before you even add anything else.