There’s an explosion in craft distilleries here in Texas, and even small towns are seeing notable new distilleries pop up. Today’s review comes from exactly one such distiller: Andalusia, based in Blanco, TX. Located halfway between Austin and San Antonio, this distillery is hoping that their whiskey can put them (and their town) on the map.
Founders Tommy Erwin and Ty Phelps met while working at the Real Ale Brewing Company, a craft brewery just outside Austin that makes some of my wife’s favorite beer. Tommy was a microbiologist running their lab, and Ty was the lead brewer at the time. The two formed a close friendship, and together in 2014 they decided to take the plunge and break out on their own to start a distillery.
The concept they came up with was a two pronged attack on creating a truly great distillery. First and foremost: having a great locally sourced craft distilled product. Second: taking advantage of a 2013 change in the Texas law that allowed them to sell whiskey in their tasting room, creating a truly great experience for those visiting their distillery.
They bought a piece of land and got to work, first grappling with the problem of what to name their distillery. After looking through some papers, they realized that the piece of land they were on was originally named Andalusia Ranches. After two years in development, they finally opened the doors in 2016.
The distillery remains a privately owned facility dedicated to local ingredients, including the use of rainwater collection tanks for use in the distilling process.
This whiskey starts with a grain bill of 100% malted barley. That barley is cooked and fermented before being distilled three times in the Irish tradition (scotch whisky only goes through the still twice, typically) before being placed in a charred American oak barrel for an undisclosed period of time.
This whiskey is a Certified Texas Whiskey, meaning that their spirit is a “grain to glass” production that is verifiably made here in the state of Texas.
Overall, this is a pretty standard whiskey bottle — but with a pretty nice sticker.
The bottle design is something we have seen time and again, which isn’t to say its a bad thing. This tried and tested design features a round body that tapers significantly from the base out towards the shoulder, and then gently rounds into a medium length neck. The whole thing is capped off with a plastic stopper.
What sets them apart here is the sticker on the bottle. A good deal of time and attention went into the design, and despite one of my pet peeves being large labels, I’ll forgive it here. The art styling goes a long way towards making up for any obscuring of the whiskey. It evokes a turn of the century feeling, perfect for a town that also hosts the Blanco Pioneer Museum, but it manages to do so in a clean and modern way. No small feat, so kudos to their designer.
This bills itself as coming from an Irish whiskey heritage, which makes sense for what you get coming off the glass. There’s a honey sweetness to the whiskey, much like what you’d expect from Jameson or a similar traditional Irish whiskey. Interestingly, though, there’s something else going on here as well. There’s a little crisp apple and a bit of vanilla, sure — but the big difference in the aroma is a smoky charred oak that wafts through and adds some depth to the flavor profile without being overbearing. That’s something you don’t see in Irish spirits that often.
As for the flavor, what you smell is what you get. There’s a good hit of vanilla and honey on the front, followed by that crisp apple, and then a bit of sweet brown sugar to finish things off. Throughout the whole experience, there’s just enough of the charred oak to give it some depth and complexity beyond the obvious elements without overpowering them.
There’s a good level of saturation to the flavors that you don’t often see, and the whole experience is pleasant and even. No bitterness, no unexpected flavors, just an enjoyable and delicious flavor. And on the finish there’s a bit more of that traditional malt-y bread like flavor that stays with you, which is nice.
With a bit of added ice, some of the flavors usually change around a bit and this is no exception. Some of the lighter elements like the honey and the malty bread like aspects have dropped out of the race, and what we’re left with is a smoky whiskey with a bit of brown sugar and vanilla in it.
To be honest, it’s not the most exciting flavor profile for a whiskey on the rocks. But that darker flavor and deeper saturation should work well in cocktails.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
This is actually a really good version of an old fashioned. There’s not a whole lot of complexity to it, but what flavors it does have work well together.
As I mentioned, when ice is added the smoke and charred oak flavors take more of a front-stage position in the flavors of the whiskey. That, combined with the angostura bitters, provides a delicious, deep, and rich flavor that’s velvety smooth and great to sip on. There aren’t any surprises here, but its still a traditional solid flavor profile.
There’s a couple things I look for in a whiskey-based mule: (1) that the spirit balances out the bitter ginger beer, and (2) that it adds some new flavors to the cocktail.
Up front, the sweetness in the honey and brown sugar absolutely has enough power to balance out the bitter ginger beer. It balances out well, even in the 1:1 pours I tend to make myself these days.
On the back end, the flavor that comes through most prominently is the smoke and charred oak from the barrels. It makes for a deeper and richer version of this cocktail than I’m used to, and in the right mixture it might even be powerful enough to be considered a little bitter. But honestly, that unique twist for a smoky mule is exactly the kind of unique flavor profile that I look for in a whiskey.
They’ve taken an old world whiskey and given it an American twist, using local grains from the States as well as using charred American oak barrels for the aging process. All this effort adds a bit of character that you don’t normally see in a triple distilled single malt whiskey. In short: this is very much the definition of Texas whiskey — coming up with new twists on classic spirits.
|Andalusia Triple Distilled Single Malt Whiskey|
Produced By: AndalusiaProduction Location: Texas, United States
Classification: Single Malt Whiskey
Special Type: Certified Texas Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 50% ABV
Price: $47.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
It’s like a bottle of Jameson showed up to a Texas BBQ.