Very often, the first thing that a distillery does after it opens its doors is to start making a gin. Or a rum. Or a vodka. Really, anything that doesn’t need to be aged before being sold. They do this as a stopgap measure to start generating some income to pay the bills while the more profitable and popular whiskey matures in barrels. Now, I often ignore those early, unaged offerings from distilleries… but in this case, I almost missed out on a gem in the form of Treaty Oak’s Waterloo No. 9 gin.
The fourth oldest distillery currently operating in Texas, Treaty Oak Distillery was opened in 2006 by Daniel Barnes. Born in West Texas and a sommelier by trade, Barnes and his co-founder / father-in-law Bruce Graham decided (over a glass or two of whiskey) to open a distillery in the Austin, Texas area.
Named after the infamous oak tree under which Stephen Austin signed the document detailing the borders of the Republic of Texas, the distillery was founded just south of the city of Austin in Dripping Springs. Like many other craft distilleries, the Treaty Oak Distillery started with spirits that didn’t require aging like rum and gin, but they recently expanded their facility to allow for the production of aged spirits.
Treaty Oak states that they try to emphasize locally sourced ingredients, including the grain and citrus used in their spirits.
- Learn More: What Is Gin?
There are a couple different ways to make a gin, and it looks like Treaty Oak went for one of the more difficult (but more rewarding) options: vapor infusion.
This starts off as a vat of raw alcohol. Exactly where that alcohol comes from isn’t disclosed, which isn’t atypical for a gin. Some distilleries use their own neutral alcohol, but most truck it in because it’s just cheaper and easier without really having a negative impact on the end product.
Where this transforms from raw alcohol to a gin is via the vapor infusion process. Where most gin producers would throw their ingredients directly into the alcohol and make a soup that then gets distilled, Treaty Oak suspends their components in a basket and lets the rising alcohol vapors pass through them, picking up some flavors on the way. Theoretically, this leads to more of the lighter and delicate notes from the botanicals making its way through to the end product.
In this case, Treaty Oak specifically uses nine components (hence the “No. 9” in the name): lavender, juniper, grapefruit, pecan, orris root, coriander, anise, ginger, and licorice root.
After distillation, the finished product is proofed down with local Texas Hill Country limestone water and bottled.
I really like what Treaty Oak does with their branding, and how they differentiate their lines of products. With their bourbons, they have a square bodied bottle, but the gins use a round body. There are some similar design elements on the labels for consistent branding, but I appreciate that it’s not just one bottle that they stick everything in and call it good. Someone put real thought into the design for the entire product line and it shows.
That said, a round-bodied bottle for this gin is fairly nondescript and standard. It’s a touch taller and skinnier than the typical craft spirits bottle, but still rounds at the shoulder and sports a medium to short length neck. There’s a plastic stopper at the top keeping it all together.
I love this label on the front of the gin. Instead of a crisp piece of paper, the label looks like someone took a paintbrush and slapped a streak of paint on the front of the bottle. It’s got a unique feel to it, which helps portray the same modern-rustic vibe you can find onsite at their distillery. Printed on that label is the bare minimum information needed, a small logo, and that’s about it. I like the minimalism of it, and along the bottom you’ve got the thin black stripes that seem to accompany every Treaty Oak bottle design, which helps tie them all together thematically.
Sometimes, I find myself annoyed about the label size if it obscures the spirit inside. But in this case, especially with a gin, I think they went the right direction. You really don’t need to see the spirit that much, and the label looks great.
There’s a much more of a floral aspect to the aroma of this gin than you’d normally expect. Usually, I get a big burst of Christmas trees and a hint of spice when I smell a gin — but here, there’s a bunch of lavender that’s almost on par with the juniper for dominance, as well as a good bit of grapefruit citrus that comes through. It makes for an aroma that’s sweet and delicious, and almost reminds me of a grapefruit Paloma. As it sits in the glass, you can get more of the licorice as well, adding some depth and complexity along with some of the coriander spice.
There’s a good weight to the spirit; it’s not thin and watery, but instead very mouthfilling. The first thing I get when taking a sip is a strong note of lavender, like I’m standing in a lavender field in the south of France during harvest season. That’s quickly tempered with a bit of citrus — but instead of being distinctly grapefruit (as I expected from the aroma), I almost get more of a lemon zest off the flavor. From there, some licorice joins the party, adding depth and complexity alongside a hint of juniper that keeps it from getting too dark. As the flavors continue to develop, there’s some coriander spice that makes an appearance, and then on the finish there’s just a flash of ginger before a lingering flavor of lavender, juniper, and star anise fade into the sunset.
There are some changes with a bit of ice, as one would expect. Typically, we see the lighter components drop out of the running once we add some ice, and I think that’s what is happening here as well.
On the aroma, the lavender floral component is much diminished and replaced almost entirely by the grapefruit, joined by just a hint of juniper. That’s flipped a bit when you take a sip, with the juniper taking a much bigger role in the flavor profile. The lavender here isn’t entirely gone, though — just diminished to the point where it isn’t making nearly the same impact as before. The juniper is first in line for the flavors, followed by some licorice with that deeper tone, and then some citrus.
Pretty much all of the important components make it through the ice and are still there, they’re just shuffled a bit. Things have changed, but not necessarily for the worse.
Full disclosure, I usually hate a Negroni. The Campari is just too loud and shout-y for my liking, and it’s incredibly hard for any gin to balance it. But in this case, I think that licorice component from the gin is actually doing a really good job putting a lid on the Campari. There’s (almost) a balance here, thanks to the richer flavors of the gin and the sweetness of the vermouth that makes this cocktail pretty darn good. It’s still a touch bitter for me, but way less so than usual.
The thing that does get lost here is the botanical component. I don’t really see the juniper or lavender — they appear to be completely obscured by the mixers, which is a bit of a disappointment.
Fizz (Gin & Tonic)
There are already a lot of good flavors in this gin. I don’t think you really need to add many mixers to make it into something great — and adding just a splash of tonic water seems to do the trick.
Usually with a G&T, I’ll see a hint of lemon juice added or even just a twist of lemon peel to give it a bit of zest, but the grapefruit component that’s already in the mix here adds that little bit of a kick naturally. There’s really nothing you need to do to this spirit other than add some ice cubes and a splash of tonic water and it is a perfectly sippable cocktail in its own right.
I’ve been ignoring Treaty Oak’s line of gins, because their bourbons are pretty good and I’m usually more of a bourbon person. But I have to confess, this gin is making me regret not having tried it much, much sooner.
This gin is bright and floral, with some fantastic delicate notes, but still has a depth and complexity to it that makes for an amazing experience. It’s the complete package when it comes to a gin. You’re definitely getting a modern / American take on the spirit (thanks to the muted juniper content) so some of the traditional cocktails might not work the way you imagine it, but the flavors here open the door to many more opportunities for interesting mixes and flavor profiles.
|Treaty Oak Waterloo No. 9 Gin|
Produced By: Treaty OakProduction Location: Texas, United States
Classification: American Gin
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 47% ABV
Price: $26.22 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 5/5
Thanks to the lavender and complex botanical flavors, this might have a No. 9 on the label but it is closer to a No. 1 in my book.