Still Austin is a name you may not be familiar with, but I have a feeling it is one you will start seeing more and more in the world of whiskey. This true grain-to-glass distillery was founded in Austin, Texas in 2015 by three Austin families who wanted to produce high-quality spirits with an emphasis on using local resources and sustainable practices.
They constructed a world class facility just south of downtown Austin that includes a 42-foot custom-made column still named ‘Nancy’ and her sister, a copper-pot still named ‘The Queen.’ They also assembled a team of experienced whiskey makers to take charge of their production facilities, including Head Distiller John Schrepel, Master Blender Nancy Fraley, and Master Distiller Mike Delevante. Currently, the distillery is producing their flagship high-rye Straight Bourbon, the Monster Mash Whiskey, and Still Austin Gin.
This straight bourbon whiskey is made from a mash bill of 70% non-GMO white corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley, all of which are locally sourced. The mash is fermented and distilled on-site and the whiskey is placed in barrels with a #3 char. The aging is also done on-site, subjecting the whiskey to the Texas climate, which offers a large variation in temperature and accelerates the aging process. To prevent the whiskey from becoming over-oaked, the distillery employs a “slow water” process, whereby they add water to the whiskey each month to dilute the whiskey as it ages, rather than proofing it down at the end of the aging process. This lowers the alcohol content without diminishing any of the flavors coming from the barrel. This whiskey is ultimately aged for at least 2 years at the Austin facility.
The resulting whiskey is placed into a high-neck bottle with a beautiful label that is entitled ‘The Musician.’ For this label, the Distillery commissioned internationally acclaimed artist and native Texan Marc Burckhardt to paint a series of portraits of the “archetypical Austinites.” This bottle comes in at 98.4 proof (49.2% abv) and retails for $45.
Appearance – copper.
Nose – the nose is dense and rich, and full of vanilla syrup, caramel, roasted pecan, a touch of green apple, and plenty of sweet oak undertones. Some youth initially comes through with a touch of sharp ethanol, but this is quickly overpowered by all of these wonderful aromas.
Palate – this bourbon has an initial sweet presentation, revealing notes of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, more roasted pecan, and some pops of citrus. However, the high-rye content quickly adds a pronounced spice that develops mid-palate. This whiskey is surprisingly flavorful and developed at only 2 years old.
Finish – the finish is medium and sweet, with notes of vanilla cream, caramel, baking spice, and some lemon peel. I was reminded of a spice cake with vanilla buttercream. While predominantly sweet, the rye spice definitely lingers mid-tongue and provides a nice balance to the various sweet notes.
Overall – I will be the first to admit that I shy away from most whiskey that is aged for less than 4 years. I’ve tried many and almost without exception, I have been disappointed. In my opinion, anything less than 4 years is generally not enough time for whiskey to fully develop in the barrel and the resulting product will be sharp and lacking in overall flavor. Still Austin may just change my mind!
If I didn’t know any better, I would not believe that this whiskey was only 2 years old. The aroma is dense and rich, and a is almost devoid of any of the traditional youthful notes that typically jump out of a young whiskey. It also provides a nice mouthfeel and plenty of rich, sweet flavors that blend nicely with the high-rye profile, resulting in a well-balanced and flavorful pour. The price point is also pleasantly surprising compared to many new craft releases that tend to come with a much higher price tag. If Still Austin can produce this kind of quality whiskey in only 2 years, I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the future.