According to the tenets of traditional bourbon-making, the longer the whiskey sits in the barrel, the more colour and flavour it will suck up from the charred oak. In turn, one might approach Still Austin’s High Rye Bourbon Whiskey with extreme caution, as it’s only been aged for a little over a year. Should you fall into this category, prepare to have your expectations upended before you’ve even cracked open the bottle. Indeed, the whiskey’s ruby red colour is so deep and rich in person that we had to check with the distiller to make sure there was no artificial colouring added (there isn’t). Meanwhile, that’s just the first of many surprises this homegrown spirit has in store.
Whereas most upstart craft distillers take shortcuts by bottling someone else’s juice for the first few years, Still Austin insists on doing things the hard way. That means handmaking its high-rye bourbon whiskey from scratch in an Austin facility, using 70% non-GMO white corn, 25% Elbon rye, and 5% wildfire malted barley. Virtually all of the grain is Texas-grown and every single aspect of production is performed in-house, meaning the milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling, barreling, and bottling.
After distillation, each batch of Still Austin whiskey is aged in new charred American Oak barrels and then bottled at 100.4 proof. The label released its first batch in Spring 2019 and now it’s back with an equally successful follow-up. It simultaneously released a preciously limited supply of Sherry Cask Finished Bourbon Whiskey, which has already sold out. For all the gin lovers out there, the brand also crafts its own gin out of Texas Rye grains.
Having sampled a wide variety of small-batch whiskeys over the past few years, we have to reiterate how uncommon it is for an American craft distillery to make its own juice from the get-go. It’s also highly irregular to bottle bourbon whiskey after it’s spent just a year in the barrel. But they do things a little differently in Texas, where the unique climate plays a big role in terms of expanding and contracting the barrels and thereby accelerating the maturation process.
The result is a superb bourbon whiskey that grows up fast with an abundance of colour, aroma, and flavour to show for it. On the nose are robust notes of sweet vanilla and cinnamon, followed by hints of burnt butter, fruit, and baking spice. The taste is similarly excellent, delivering soft texture, classic bourbon flavour, perfect blasts of malted grain, and a deep finish. From the Sherry Cask Finished variant comes additional notes of fruit on the nose and palate and an even deeper finish. Both statements are fantastic, especially when you consider their age.
Like its very product, Still Austin is quite young (just five years old, in fact). To compete with a rapidly growing Texas craft scene, the brand seems to be bottling its whiskey as fast as it can. With each new release, meanwhile, it’s distributing to new areas and markets around America. Hopefully, it’s also keeping some of that juice in the barrel for additional aging. Either way, we can’t wait to see what pops up next!