Before moving to Austin, I spent about five years living in San Antonio, Texas. Austin generally gets more street cred, but there’s some interesting stuff going on in SA. Point in case: Alamo Distilling Co and this brand new bourbon that I had never seen before.
Alamo Distilling Company started when two San Antonio residents, Noel Burns and Daniel Taylor, found themselves on New Year’s 2014 sitting around a fire pit in a back yard in Schertz talking about how much they both hated their jobs.
20 minutes later they decided to open a distillery together.
Neither of them had a history in distilling, but Burns had been a professional chemist and Taylor had a background in business. Between the two of them, they had at least the fundamental concepts down and and enough grit and determination to make a good run at it. One of their first decisions was to make a “grain to glass” product that relied on local ingredients and catered to local tastes.
Less than a year later, the pair had started producing their first un-aged products, specifically a rum and a “moonshine.” Since then, they have expanded three times and continue to be a profitable and growing business.
There’s not much information about what’s actually in the bottle.
As a bourbon, at least 50% of the grain bill in here should be corn, but there’s rumors that there is also some malted barley and rye added in to taste.
Once distilled, the spirit should be aged in new charred oak barrels for a period of time. Exactly how long the whiskey sat in the barrel isn’t disclosed, unfortunately — but given that this is a new distillery that makes un-aged spirits, I’m guessing it isn’t long. In their defense, though, it doesn’t take long to make big and bold whiskey in San Antonio, thanks to the dramatic temperature swings.
The bottle design is common among craft distilleries — a round and wide bottle body with a quickly rounded shoulder and a short neck. The whole thing is capped off with a plastic and cork stopper.
The differentiation here is the label. It’s a well designed black shield on the bottle with the pertinent information in bold white lettering. It’s not the most amazing label I’ve ever seen, but it is an attractive design and pops out on the shelf. It also has one of my favorite attributes, namely that it doesn’t cover the whole bottle so you can actually see the beautiful dark amber liquid within.
The aroma coming off the glass is bold and rich, mainly smelling of the types of things you’d expect from a charred oak barrel. There’s some rich caramel with some vanilla notes that come through first and foremost, along with a bit of charcoal, but there’s also a fruity citrus note of black cherry and some licorice that come in around the edges.
Taking a sip is like sipping on caramel. It’s sweet and delicious, with a bit of vanilla mixed in for good measure. As the flavor develops, there’s a malty flavor that comes in and some peppery spice as well, which is delicious. I think I also get a bit of apple in there as well.
The whole thing is smooth and pleasant, with bold flavors that nevertheless aren’t overpowering.
With a little bit of ice, the more delicate flavors have dropped out of the aroma, but the caramel and vanilla remain. At this point, it’s got the same aroma as pretty much any other “bold” bourbon.
Where this starts to change is with the flavor. While those delicate aromas may have faded away, the flavors themselves remain. The caramel, vanilla, cherry and licorice are all still there. Just… colder.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
The nice thing about bold and rich flavors is that when you add some bright and cheery tones like orange peel and citrus, it balances out in the cocktail. And that’s exactly what happened here.
This makes for an absolutely delicious old fashioned. The bitters are almost completely disappeared thanks to the sweetness in the drink, and the citrus flavors compliment what’s already in the spirit. Alamo Bourbon definitely makes for a great version of an Old Fashioned.
Usually, the ginger beer in a mule covers up the majority of the flavors in this cocktail, but in this case I think the underlying flavors are bold enough to come through and play well with others. The cherry flavor and the sweetness balance well with the bitter ginger, and they don’t get lost in the mix.
That said, I’ve had better. There’s very little peppery spice coming through in the end, which is usually something I appreciate in a good whiskey mule. It’s almost too sweet and fruity.
It’s a great Texas bourbon. It’s smooth and delicious with big bold flavors. Which is what I have come to expect from San Antonio distilleries, like Ranger Creek. But while the flavors are there, there doesn’t seem to be enough of the rye content to make the peppery spice really pop and come through.
That said, it’s still 100% worth every penny.
Alamo Bourbon Black Label
Owner: Alamo Distilling Co
Production: San Antonio, TX
Grain bill: Corn, malted barley, and rye
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $20.49/ 750ml
Overall Rating: 4/5
I’ll remember this Alamo.