There’s a large number of craft breweries and distilleries surrounding the Austin area, so I wasn’t shocked to hear about the opening of another distillery. Until I heard the name of the spirit, that is. Sotol? Didn’t ring a bell.
But then I received an introduction, and we became fast friends.
Known to producers in northern Mexico and the West Texans who moonshine it, sotol’s extensive history still remains unknown to most people in our area. With Desert Door’s recent opening, however, that’s about to change.
Texan and Tasty
Desert Door’s line of sotol specializes in the production of Texas-grown evergreen sotol. The sotol plants grow wild in West Texas where they are harvested at the age of 12. From there, Desert Door hauls them back to Driftwood in the distillery’s own pick-up truck, where they are trimmed and steamed.
Only two other ingredients are added to the wild sotol plants: organic yeast and purified, natural Texas water. The result is a spirit that truly tastes like where it’s grown: the desert. Its herbal taste is noticeable with crisp, earthy notes, just slightly smoky. Yet it’s distinguishably different from mezcals and lacks the punch tequila often has.
Sotol’s flavors gently overlap and have a slightly creamy mouthfeel. I tried the spirit on the rocks and was pleasantly surprised by its complex profile. It went down smoothly when I drank it on its own, and added flavor to the several cocktails I sampled, including a sotol old fashioned and a sotol margarita.
My favorite combination was sipping sotol mixed with Waterloo Sparkling Water (also made in Austin) for a refreshing and flavorful low-calorie drink.
Visiting Desert Door Distillery
Desert Door is located in Driftwood and opened to the public last month. Founders Judson Kauffman, Ryan Campbell, and Brent Looby met through The University of Texas at Austin MBA program. They found common ground in their military backgrounds and desire to produce a Texas grown and distilled spirit.
Desert Door produces both an original and aged variation of sotol. The latter variety will be released early next year and has additional notes of caramel and oaky vanilla. Both types will first be available at the distillery before going to area restaurants and bars, along with other distribution channels.
After being distilled in Desert Door’s custom-built copper still, Original Desert Door Texas Sotol is complex enough to enjoy on its own, yet versatile enough to create a variety of cocktails.
Find your favorite sotol drink by spending time at Desert Door’s tasting room. With a cozy yet chic interior and works by regional artists, you can make yourself comfortable near the fireplace or tour the 6,500-square-foot facility.
The Spirit of Sotol
Sotol is not a new spirit. Historical artifacts and research show its presence over 7,000 years ago in what we now know as Texas. Production, however, has been mostly concentrated in Mexico, and the spirit has remained widely unknown to many Texans. This seems to be one reason why Desert Door looks forward to reintroducing sotol. According to Kauffman, “Sotol has deeper roots in Texas than any other spirit. Desert Door is proud to be bringing it back.”
To introduce yourself to this old, but maybe new-to-you spirit, check out DesertDoor.com for distillery updates, tour reservations, and distribution information. The distillery is currently open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
211 Darden Hill Road, Driftwood, TX
@theAustinot wants to know:
Who will you take to Desert Door’s tasting room?
We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It’s where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!