I live in Austin, so I’ve reviewed a lot of whiskey from the local area. I’ve done some pretty in-depth digging into some of the specifically Austin based distilleries, but there’s a whole world of spirits out on Route 290 just west of town — including one of the oldest distilleries in the state, which I’ve never tasted. Today, I’m making up for that oversight and reviewing the 1876 Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Founded in 2005 by the brothers Gary and Kevin Kelleher, the San Luis Spirits Distilling Company was the second legal distillery in the state of Texas and seems to have positioned itself as a mass production facility — producing 100,000 cases of spirits in 2018 alone.
The 1876 brand was one of the labels created by the San Luis Spirits Distilling Company to market their spirits. Named for the year that the Texas constitution was adopted, the distillery produces both a bourbon and a vodka under that brand.
In 2018, the distillery merged with Empresario Brands to form Dripping Springs Distillery (DSD), increasing production and bringing more labels under their control. The facility continues to operate at their Dripping Springs, Texas facility.
- Learn More: What Is Bourbon Whiskey?
This whiskey starts with a grain bill of 80% yellow Texas #2 corn and 20% Oklahoma rye. Those grains are milled, cooked, and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic liquid that is then batch distilled three times to increase the alcohol content and selectively capture the flavors and aromas that the distillery wants.
Once distilled, the newly made whiskey is placed into charred new oak barrels for a period of no less than two years to age. Once appropriately matured, the whiskey is proofed down with pure Texas hill country spring water and shipped for sale.
This is a fairly clean, modern, and common take on a whiskey bottle. In fact, we have three different examples of distilleries using an almost identical bottle for their spirits in our reviews database. That’s not to say it’s a bad design — it just isn’t going to stand out on the shelf.
The bottle is a slender and straight cylinder with a rounded shoulder and a long neck. That is capped off with a wood and cork stopper.
For the labels, the distillery seems to have gone with a leather theme. The main label looks like a leather patch that has been worked and stylized, with a design stamped into it and the brand information floating slightly above the surface. It’s a fine design, but in my opinion it isn’t winning any awards. I appreciate that there’s plenty of space around the label to still see the bourbon inside, but that label still takes up a good amount of real estate and doesn’t really convey anything in exchange.
The smell coming off this glass is like sticking your nose in a peach cobbler from the Salt Lick. I’m getting sweet brown sugar notes combined with vanilla, peach and apple fruits, orange and lemon citrus, as well as some yeasty bread-like notes. Behind that, there’s a wisp of mesquite smoke that is adding some depth and character — not overpowering, but enough to be noticed.
If the aroma wasn’t enough, I really can’t over emphasize how much this tastes like peach cobbler. There’s an interesting interaction between the sweet corn, the vanilla and brown sugar from the barrel aging components, a hint of orange citrus, and some bright crisp apple from the rye content that all combines in just the right way to create an impression of a warm and delicious peach cobbler. There’s also that mesquite smoke that has followed us into the flavor, adding another layer that makes it all taste that much better.
As the flavors mix and develop, they are joined by some black pepper spice. That spicy texture, plus a bit of apple and brown sugar, are primarily what you’ll taste in the finish.
A little bit of ice usually flattens the flavors out and removes some of the less saturated notes, and that’s what happens here as well. There’s still plenty of flavor, but things have been drastically simplified.
What I’m getting the clearest are the brown sugar and vanilla — but there’s also a new component that I didn’t quite see before. It’s a nutty flavor, like Texas pecans, and I think that’s a function of the mesquite smoke being slightly attenuated and shifting a little bit. Either way, I’m certainly not mad about it — the new flavor is a bit deeper and more complex, which should make for some good cocktails.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
I love richer, more complex versions of an Old Fashioned, and that’s exactly what I’m getting here.
The biggest contributors to the uniqueness of this version are the pecan and mesquite smoke components of the flavor profile. Those notes are adding some depth and complexity, giving the herbaceous bitters something to work with other than the usual bourbon flavors. And those bourbon flavors are there as well, by the way — brown sugar, vanilla, black peppery spice for texture even — but that’s almost a given. These new flavors elevate the game a bit and do it quite well.
What would bring this to the next level is some dark fruit and some better saturation in the flavors, but this is pretty good as-is.
What we’ve got here is a serviceable Kentucky Mule. While it isn’t the most exciting cocktail in the world, it’s fine.
I had been hoping that more of the unique flavors would come through in the mule, specifically the mesquite smoke. That’s something that we saw with the Balcones Brimstone and made for some extremely interesting cocktails. There’s just a tiny faint glimmer of that smoke here, but not nearly enough to really make a difference when up against the ginger beer and the lime juice. Honestly, the nutty pecan-esque notes do more work making this interesting than anything else, and even then it’s just a footnote on the tasting sheet.
Overall, this balances well. The sweeter notes of the bourbon balance the brighter ginger components as you’d expect. There’s even a touch of the black pepper and apple on the finish from the rye content. But it doesn’t knock my socks off.
There are a lot of whiskies that claim to be a “Texas Whiskey” but most of them come with a fairly standard flavor profile. With this bottle, though, I get some true tastes of Texas: peach cobbler, mesquite smoke, pecans, and then the typical bourbon flavors on top.
For the price that they are charging, this is a pretty good deal. It’s certainly worth the price of admission, but there are some things that I’d like to see to really make this a truly outstanding bottle. A little better saturation on the flavors, a bit more depth, and some extra components like dried dark fruits would go a long way towards elevating. Stick it in a cognac cask to age for a while and we might have a winner.
|1876 Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Texas, United States
Classification: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 42.5% ABV
Price: $26.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
A true taste of Texas — pecans, peach cobbler, and mesquite smoke. All for a reasonable price.