Still Austin Whiskey Co. is a local distillery here in Austin that is doing their best to keep Austin weird. They have a few flagship spirits that are distributed widely in Texas, but every so often they like to create an interesting one-off experiment just for the local Austin whiskey drinkers, which they typically release under their Distillery Reserve Series. Today we’re looking at their latest under that umbrella: Double Barreled Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Locally owned and operated in Austin, Texas, the Still Austin Whiskey Co. opened its doors in 2017.
Despite being so new, Still actually has the historical distinction of being the first distillery in the city limits of Austin since prohibition. Keeping it local, their plan was to try and use locally grown “heirloom” grains to make a craft spirit that would be unique to Austin.
The company took a different approach from most distillers, in that they decided to offer only product that they themselves have distilled (not re-bottling someone else’s whiskey). To keep the business afloat while waiting for their first product to age, they would rely on infused “white lightning” unaged whiskey. Their plan worked, producing a number of delicious whiskey and gin concoctions before the business finally produced its first 100% locally grown, distilled, aged, bottled, and distributed bourbon in 2019.
Still Austin focuses on making truly great spirits and interesting experiments, which are often released in limited quantities as their Distillery Reserve series.
With the Distillery Reserve Series, the folks at Still Austin get to flex their creativity muscles a little bit and show off what they can do. The entire point is to put out something a little different and a little strange (which is very on brand for Austin).
As with their typical straight bourbon, the whiskey starts with a grain bill of 70% non-GMO white corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley. All of the ingredients are locally sourced, and all of the production from grain to glass is done on-site at the Austin, Texas based distillery. (Interesting to note: the white corn used in the whiskey is the same white corn used to make all of the delicious tortillas that are ubiquitous in Austin.)
From there, the mash is fermented and distilled on-site and the resulting whiskey is placed in charred oak barrels (with a #3 char) from ISC in Kentucky. The spirit is aged in the Texas heat, which offers a wider swing in temperatures than other climates and accelerates the aging process.
Fun fact: the whiskey is actually proofed in the barrel using a “slow water” process. Instead of aging a cask strength whiskey and then dumping in tap water at the end, some water is added each month to dilute the whiskey as it ages. This reduces the alcohol content to an enjoyable level without diminishing any of the flavors coming from the barrel.
If this were the normal bourbon, the story would end here in a delicious bottle. But for the Double Barrel edition, portions of six barrels of normal bourbon were selected and blended into a second new charred oak barrel and left to age even further. In total, this spirit was aged for three solid years before it made its way into the bottles.
Something that also made this release a little different is that 100% of the bottles made available to the public were offered through a lottery system. There was no special consideration for bloggers or influencers — everyone was given an equal chance to snag one of the 200 bottles through a lottery drawing. I love the egalitarian distribution here – it just further reinforces that the folks at Still let their product speak for itself.
I actually didn’t find myself one of the lucky lottery winners, but the folks at Still Austin took pity on me one day while I was visiting the distillery and offered a swig from their personal supply — which is the only reason I’m able to write this review. As a result, we’re going to need to alter the review formula for this one since I could only taste a single glass, rather than my usual four different formats (neat, ice, cocktail, fizz).
I love the funky, odd label designs that Still always delivers. And this one in particular is especially cool.
Back in the day, Still Austin used a custom etched bottle with a very “chill hipster” era Austin vibe. It was different and interesting, and I liked it very much. Just like the city itself, the bottle design has evolved, using a much more traditional shape while still keeping it weird with the labels. These new bottles have a cylindrical body with a slight flare from the thick glass base to the shoulder that gently rounds to meet the medium length neck. There’s a slight bulge in the neck which makes pouring easier, and the whole thing is capped off with a wood and cork stopper.
As for the label, you aren’t seeing double. The unique label for this bottling was designed by Tim Doyle and inspired by the 1967 feature film Monster from Four Fathoms. It’s very on-brand for the distillery, as their column still is named after yet another science fiction monster movie from that era Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. The label is designed to be a 3-D experience, and each bottle comes with a set of 3-D glasses to enjoy the effect.
Funky. Fun. Unique. Tied into other themes of the distillery. And incorporating some of the elements of the process (the double barrel) into the label design. It’s a home run.
Right out of the bottle, this smells amazing. There are all of the usual suspects in the aroma: a good bit of caramel and vanilla from those two barrels that comes through well-saturated and delicious. But there’s something else here as well — specifically, some cherry and orange citrus fruity notes that I don’t see in the standard bourbon. It adds some nice depth and balance.
The smell is great, but the flavor is even better. Right off the bat, there is some caramel from those charred oak barrels, but it’s a little smokier and darker than usual — like the caramelized sugar from the top of a creme brulee, a concept which is reinforced by the vanilla that follows close behind.
As the flavor develops, the darker and richer notes start to come out and play with cherry being the first thing that pops out. From there, I actually get a bit of rye bread (something I don’t typically identify in the normal edition) complete with the pepper spice that makes your lips tingle as the flavor finishes. It rides the line between “deliciously dark” and “overpowering charred wood” in my opinion — but stays firmly on the correct side of that equation.
Usually, when we add a little bit of ice, the flavors become diluted and the impact is greatly reduced. With a typical whiskey this can be a disaster, but the double oak barrel aging allows this spirit to stand up to the ice quite well.
The aroma here is a little bit attenuated, closer to the standard edition bourbon from Still Austin. The citrus and cherry notes have almost completely disappeared, leaving behind just a bit of toasty caramel aroma.
The same can be said for the flavor, with the fruity citrus tones being almost completely phased out except for a touch of orange peel. That gets blended together with some of the toasted caramel, vanilla, and rye spice to make what can almost be described as a legitimate old fashioned cocktail without anything needing to be added.
The flavors here are rich and well-saturated, and the result is a delicious and almost buttery texture. Excellent for sipping, whether neat or on ice. I’d be willing to bet money that this would make a great cocktail, and I can only hope they do a wider release version of this in the future.
I love the concept. I love the artwork. I love the smell and the taste. The one thing I don’t love: there’s no more left and I’ll never be able to taste it again.
|Still Austin Whiskey Co. Double Barreled Straight Bourbon Whiskey|
Produced By: Still Austin Whiskey Co.Production Location: Texas, United States
Classification: Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 54.5% ABV
Price: $100 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 5/5
I love this almost as much as I love 1950’s era B movies. (Which is a lot.)