Putting out a gin is often just a product of necessity for distilleries. It takes time to age a whiskey or a bourbon, so having something unaged (like a gin) allows them to start selling spirits and making a profit while the brown stuff gets good. The folks over at Treaty Oak don’t seem to be taking their gins so lightly, as we saw with their No. 9 edition that we reviewed recently. And if we thought they made for some interesting choices with that one, the phrase “hold my beer” comes to mind for their Old Yaupon 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 have since 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?
Treaty Oak says that this is their take on an “Old Tom” gin, which refers to probably the vaguest category of gins that exist. Old Tom style gins came about during the mid-1700s London Gin Craze when (according to legend) bartenders would surreptitiously pour shots of cheap gin to waiting customers through hidden slots underneath carved images of black cats (hence the name). There was never really a consistent style or defining characteristic to gins that use this name, but some common features are that it’s often significantly sweeter and much less juniper-forward than the traditional London Dry style.
In any case, this is still a gin. And of the different ways to make a gin, 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 a raw alcohol to a gin is the vapor infusion process. Whereas 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 uses a smaller set of botanicals for this version of their gin (another typical Old Tom hallmark): Yaupon Holly, Juniper, Makrut Lime, Anise, and Orris Root. That first component, the yaupon holly, is a local flowering holly plant that is native to Texas and one of only two plants in North America that are caffeinated.
After distillation, the finished product is proofed down with local Texas Hill Country limestone water, sweetened with local honey, 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.
(And speaking of being able to see the spirit when it’s in the bottle: one thing I’ll note here is a slight yellow-green tint to the gin. I feel like that’s a result of the honey sweetening adding some color to the otherwise colorless spirit. Not anything concerning, just something to point out.)
The very first thing you smell here is citrus: bright lemon citrus with some grapefruit backing it up. As the spirit sits in the glass, that note becomes a little less shrill and some floral components start to appear in the mix. I get some hints of juniper at this point, and probably that yaupon making an appearance.
First thing you’ll notice when you sip this is that there’s a good weight to the spirit, probably thanks to the honey that’s been added and is thickening things up a bit. I believe this is also what gives the liquid its slightly yellow tint.
The flavors you get at this point are a little difficult to tease apart. It seems like they all sort of jumbled together rather than laying themselves out in some sort of understandable order, but you can recognize the big players that we saw in the aroma: the citrus and the juniper, as well as the honey sweetness. You can definitely also see a little bitterness from the yaupon, as well as that slightly floral flavor. And, in fact, that’s probably what lasts the longest — the yaupon and juniper, lingering into the finish with just a bit of licorice to add some depth to the flavor.
Taken neat, all of the flavors wanted to make themselves known all at the same time. But with a little bit of ice, I think the flavors of this drink are allowed some time to develop and reveal themselves, which is really nice.
At this point, I can clearly taste all of the elements that went into the spirit: the sweet honey, followed by the yaupon holly, which then gets a bit of a citrus-y kick from the lime, and finally the earthy elements of the star anise bringing some licorice along with the orris root. All of those earthy components, along with the honey sweetness, are what really linger on the longest, replacing the more herbal and floral elements that used to be the finish when taken neat.
I’m not normally a huge fan of a negroni, mainly because it’s a bit too tart for my taste. But thanks to the honey in this gin, I think there’s actually a chance for all the flavors to come together and overcome the very strong and powerful mixers.
In the end, this still tastes very much like a glass of Campari (which may be appealing to some of you weirdos), but it’s not quite as bitter as you’d normally find and there’s a hint of the herbal aspects peeking through. I think even the licorice and earthy components are doing a good job keeping things balanced out. Overall, a pretty good version of the cocktail.
Fizz (Gin & Tonic)
Rather than being a good G&T, this actually tastes like a watered down Tom Collins. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — I like a good Tom Collins. But this is missing some of that floral magic. You’re absolutely getting the citrus that you’d expect in this format, but the juniper and yaupon barely make an entrance.
I do think it works, though. The added sweetness from the honey makes for a delicious tasting cocktail, and is something that’s typically missing from a dry G&T. The earthy elements, like the licorice, provide grounding and a balance that is very enjoyable. I’m not sure if this is ‘good’ by strict G&T standards — like I said, it feels like a Tom Collins/ G&T hybrid — but it’s delicious either way.
This is a smart use of local ingredients and sweeteners that leads to a pretty delicious spirit. That said, I think this is a very niche gin.
There’s a bitterness here that the added honey is trying to cover up and, while it does a solid job of doing so, there’s still a bit of that bitter aspect peeking through. The combination of the yaupon and the lime ingredients are probably the main culprits for this, and the end result is that it can possibly throw off the cocktails you’re making — which means you might need to alter the recipe to accommodate the gin. Not the end of the world, but still something to note.
This is absolutely worth a look, and probably a bottle if you’re a fan of gin. I don’t think I would instinctively reach for this on a daily basis, but it’s an ideal choice when you watch to reach for something unique and different.
|Treaty Oak Waterloo Old Yaupon Gin|
Produced By: Treaty OakProduction Location: Texas, United States
Classification: American Gin
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $27.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
Try not to be intimidated by the fancy sounding ingredient — this is a delicious gin that is worth a shot.