Most people don’t spend Sunday afternoon relaxing in an industrial park, but that’s where I found myself. Outside, a jazz band was warming up, as a freshly-poured old fashioned chilled in my hand. On the bar, a beaker filled with strawberries and whiskey bubbled like a prop from Frankenstein’s workshop. If it weren’t for the area, I would’ve thought I was hanging out at a swank cantina, not a working distillery.
Like St Elmo Brewing, Spokesman Coffee, and the other local businesses that call The Yard home, Still Austin Whiskey Co. is breaking the mold. By using fresh ingredients and creating clean, distinctive spirits, the first distillery within Austin city limits (since Prohibition) is making its presence known.
First Urban Whiskey Distillery
You read that right. Before Still, there hadn’t been a whiskey distillery in Austin proper since the 1920’s. Due to safety regulations, neighborhood approvals, and building permits, it’s just been easier to set up shop outside city limits.
Despite the hurdles, Still’s location was never a question, according to co-founder Chris Seals. “For us, an authentic Austin whiskey has to be made from grains grown here and handmade in Austin, Texas.” Seals told me. “We just tried to stay true to that.”
After rolling through the red tape, all of the regulations turned out to be a blessing in disguise. According to those in the know, Still is one of the most efficient and safe distilleries in the country. Two and a half years after starting the distilling process, Still was ready to open its doors to the public.
Still’s Winning Whiskey
The first thing most people notice when they grab a Still whiskey is the color, or lack thereof. Unlike most whiskeys behind the bar, Still’s spirits pour clear. This is due to a lack of barrel aging, which is where whiskey gets its distinctive color and adjunct flavors.
The result is more moonshine than traditional whiskey, but a remarkably pure and clean version of the oft-maligned spirit. Citrus and floral notes rise to the surface, allowing the grain to stand out. Since the whiskey isn’t chilling out in a barrel, there’s a delightful kick and burn on the finish.
“We wanted to have a spirit that was of a very high quality before it goes into a barrel, and then let the barrel aging piece be a layer on top of that quality,” explained Seals.
Like our beloved blog, both the New Make and Daydreamer styles are hyperlocal. All the grain used to create the whiskeys is sourced as close to Austin as humanly possible. The Daydreamer in particular jumps from the glass with big orange notes that continue through to the finish. Both varieties are accessible for newbies and hooch heads alike.
Still’s final variety is the Mother Pepper. An infusion of three peppers gives the spirit a light tan color and a deceptively subtle spice nose. Tip one back, however, and you’ll get hit with a surprising amount of mouth-coating heat. While I personally wouldn’t reach for this as a sipping whiskey (I’m a heat wimp), Mother Pepper works beautifully in cocktails.
Urban Vibe With a Backyard Feel
Cocktails at a distillery? Believe it! One of my biggest surprises at Still was its exceptional cocktail program. From classics like the old fashioned and margaritas, to a strikingly delicious hot toddy, Still ensures its whiskeys sit front and center.
My favorite was the Daisy Pepper, a deceptively straight-forward blend of Mother Pepper whiskey, lemon juice, and brown sugar simple. The tartness from the lemon and sweetness from the sugar balance out the whiskey’s heat, providing a memorable flavor.
All of this is enjoyed in a setting worthy of The Yard development. The interior is spacious and cool, while the outside patio has a cozy, backyard feel. Lawn chairs and large high-top tables dot the exterior, perfect seating for listening to the many local bands that will be performing in the coming months. The vibe is Austin to its core, exactly how the founders wanted it.
“We aren’t trying to make the oldest whiskey that’s ever been made. We’re trying to make something that represents us as Austinites,” shared Seals. “We’re young, vibrant, and diverse, and it makes sense our whiskeys would represent that.”
➡️ Keep reading: “3 Food and Drink Hot Spots at The Yard in South Austin”
As I sat in the shade of a Sunday at 2 p.m. and chatted with Seals over cocktails, everything felt “right.” At that moment, the distillery didn’t feel like a young upstart dipping a toe into the craft spirit world. It felt like it had been around forever, with The Yard springing up around it.
By staying close to its Austin roots in both product and location, Still Austin Whiskey Co. is poised to become a go-to hangout for thirsty Austinites in need of a breather. Clean, refreshing, and made with double portions of ATX love.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite whiskey cocktail?
Disclosure: Whiskey tasting was provided to me compliments of the distillery. All opinions are my own.