Best Austin Distilleries & Whiskey Tours
Austin and the surrounding Hill Country are home to a number of distilleries that are destinations in their own right.
It must be that sweet Texas Hill Country water, because distilleries in Austin, both large and small, are producing some of the best whiskey in the country. There are nearly a dozen distilleries in Austin and the surrounding areas, with more opening all the time.
Some of these Austin distilleries have taprooms, while others don’t. In any case, we thought it’d be fun to compile a list of the best whiskey in Austin for you. So take a look at this simple but comprehensive guide to whiskey and distilleries in Hill Country. There’s something here for everyone.
Visit a local tasting room or take a day trip to the Hill Country. Here are 9 whiskey distilleries in the area to visit:
Crowded Barrel Whiskey Co.
16221 Crystal Hills Dr building d, Austin, TX 78737, (512) 850-9622
The Crowded Barrel Whiskey Company is the world’s first crowdsourced whiskey distiller. At its core, Crowded Barrel is a distillery for the terminally curious. We’ll always love making our own whiskey, but sourcing, blending, finishing, and experimenting with someone else’s best stuff is an explorer’s dream. Maybe we mooch a single-barrel unicorn from an award-winning distillery. Or carefully piece together an international blend that yields a new and exotic creature, begging to be uncorked. – crowdedbarrelwhiskey.com
Milam & Greene Whiskey
208 Mesquite St, Blanco, TX 78606, (830) 833-3033
Milam & Greene, the new flagship whiskey brand, is named for the partnership formed between Texan entrepreneur Marsha Milam and whiskey expert Heather Greene. The team also includes veteran Kentucky master distiller Marlene Holmes and chief brewer Jordan Osborne. Milam & Greene whiskey is the soul and pride of Provision Spirits, reflecting the best of American whiskey-making with a Texan heart, carefully developed and honed over time. – milamandgreenewhiskey.com
Fierce Whiskers Distillery
5333 Fleming Ct, Austin, TX 78744
When you think of premium whiskey, you probably don’t think of Austin, Texas. We’re bound and determined to change that. With a ruthless commitment to quality and our Texas Tight Cut—the tightest cut possible—we’re out to prove that a truly great American whiskey can come from a truly unexpected place. – fiercewhiskers.com
Banner Distilling Co.
13201 Jacobson Rd, Manor, TX 78653, (512) 815-2326
Located on 12 acres of farmland in the outskirts of East Austin, Banner Distilling Co. is a small batch distillery built from the ground up by two craft beer and spirits enthusiasts with a fierce purpose to carve out a Texas distilling heritage. We want to establish a tradition of great Texas spirits and hope you’ll join us in building and celebrating this tradition with you. – bannerdistilling.com
Kooper Family Whiskey Co.
100 West, US-290, Ledbetter, TX 78946; (979) 249-5535
After years of making whiskey together as a hobby, the husband and wife team Troy and Michelle Kooper (La Grange, Texas) turned their backs on corporate life, let it all ride, and pursued their whiskey-making dreams by starting the Kooper Family Whiskey Company. – kooperfamily.com
Still Austin Whiskey Co.
440 E St Elmo Rd unit f, Austin, TX 78745, (512) 276-2700
A good whiskey can do so much. It builds friendships, it makes quiet moments special, and it improves the view from literally any porch. Hell, it even makes music sound better. We started Still Austin Whiskey Co. because we’re crazy about this stuff, and we saw an opportunity to create our own kind of distillery. Through a combination of careful attention to detail and good old-fashioned Texas luck, we’ve managed to bottle the inclusive spirit of our home city. – stillaustin.com
Treaty Oak Distilling
16604 Fitzhugh Rd, Dripping Springs, TX 78620; (512) 400-4023
Red Handed Bourbon is thoughtfully curated from Kentucky, deep in the heart of American Bourbon Country. Aged 2 years, this beautiful straight bourbon presents a pleasant honey nose with kettle corn and cool earthy notes leading into a mild spice with waves of caramel and butter. This bourbon can be enjoyed neat or mixed into a classic cocktail. – treatyoakdistilling.com
Garrison Brothers Distillery
1827 Hye-Albert Rd, Hye, TX 78635; (830) 392-0246
At Garrison Brothers Distillery, bourbon is far more than just whiskey. It’s a craft. A calling. A livelihood. One thing is certain: Life is simply too short to waste on inferior whiskey. So, come on down to heavenly Hye, Texas to see it all for yourself. We’d love to welcome you to the GB family. Salud! Come break bourbon with us down in heavenly Hye, TX at Garrison Brothers Distillery, home of the first bourbon distillery outside of Kentucky. – garrisonbros.com
Desert Door Distillery
211 Darden Hill Rd, Driftwood, TX 78619; (512) 829-6129
Out of the shadows and into the glass, expert-guided tastings of our core offerings will help you to discover the alluring nuances of sotol. Craft cocktails, Eden West food truck, and curated goods are also available in our desert-modern tasting room, featuring a cozy fireplace, comfy couches, an outdoor patio, live music, and games. All are welcome – including children and dogs. – desertdoor.com
Of all of the liquors, there are to choose from, whiskey has the potential to be the most intimidating because there are so many varieties. Vodka, gin, and tequila are all available on the rail and in some cases, the only perceptible difference is going to be how you feel the next day. Whiskey, however, is a horse of a different color.
It’s a good thing we love a challenge. It only takes a few tips to sip everything from Scotch to Bourbon just like a good ol’ boy. Even if you’re not down with the brown stuff, a good hostess provides a full bar at her parties and this little lesson can make stocking that bar much easier. So sit back, relax, and get ready to take notes on this classic libation.
Let’s start with the basics. There are 5 main kinds of whiskey: the U.S. blended, bourbon, Canadian, Scotch, and Irish (Random factoid: the U.S. and Ireland spell it whiskey, but Canada and Scotland drop the ‘e’).
Of these options the one most commonly reserved for special occasions is Scotch. Scotch is like the champagne of whiskies–just as only sparkling wines made from the Champagne region of France can claim that title, Scotch can only come from Scotland. There have even been experiments conducted where all of the unique elements that go into Scotch (barley, peat, and water from the highland streams) were all imported from Scotland. It still didn’t come outright.
Under the Scotch umbrella there are 4 subcategories available in the U.S: blends 12 years and older, blends up to 8 years of age, blends bottled in the U.S., and single malts. Scotch drinkers are typically purists, particularly those who are fans of the single malt (the traditional and original type of Scotch), so it’s rarely mixed with anything but water–and since this is only a primer, we won’t dive further into this particular barrel. Just keep that information in mind if you’re ever feeling bold enough to order it.
Canadian whiskies, on the other hand, are the crowd-pleaser of the bunch. Unlike many other countries, Canada does not regulate how its whiskies are produced so the recipes are secret and the results are diverse. Made with a mix of corn, rye, and barley, then aged for about 6 years, these whiskies are the people person of their category. They’re lighthearted and have never met a mixer they didn’t like. For this same reason, they are a great gift whisky.
The word whiskey is derived from a Gaelic word uisge beatha or “water of life” and if that doesn’t say that the Irish treat their whisky seriously I don’t know what does. Irish whiskey is made with barley, like Scotch, but it lacks the smoky flavor because Irish barley is dried over smokeless anthracite coal. The Irish are just as stubborn about their whiskey as they are about anything, so don’t go throwing Jameson in the same category as The Glenlivet (a Scotch) the next time you’re in a pub just because they’re both made with barley. Just remember Scotch = smoky and you’ll be fine.
Bourbon County is actually in Kentucky and it is the birthplace of its namesake. Here’s a fun historical fact for parties: The Whiskey Rebellion took place in Pennsylvania in the 1790s when the government tried to tax farmers in Pennsylvania on the whiskey they were selling. Many of them fled to Kentucky to escape the tax. Bourbons are only made in the U.S. and, for whatever reason; the government has lots of rules and regulations about what makes up bourbon. If you’re really curious about what those criteria are, check out the answer from The Straight Dope.
That being said, on to the final type of whiskey big enough to make the top 5: U.S. blended whiskey. There are 6 different subcategories for American whiskey: straight whiskey, blends of straight whiskey, bottled-in-bond whiskey, light whiskey, blended whiskey, and Tennessee whiskey. If all of these categories sound the same here is some quick advice (I’d say cheap, but that depends on where you’re getting your alcohol from): order Jack Daniels. Why? Because it’s good and if a bar doesn’t have Jack Daniels then you should probably just leave.
She Drinks a Whiskey Drink
Now that you know what you’re dealing with, it’s time to decide what to order. Each has it’s time and place (And remember, when you’re choosing a mixed drink you can always tell the bartender to go easy on the alcohol–no one has to be the wiser).
A summertime barbeque calls for a Lynchburg Lemonade. Icy-cold and refreshing, Jack Daniels, lemonade, and grenadine with a 7-up floater are perfect for parties on the patio.
If it’s an après ski treat that you’re after, order an Irish coffee. Adding Jameson and heavy cream to your java is an excellent way to relax those muscles after a day on the slopes. Just don’t have too many, lest you wind up with your head as achy as your body the next day.
At a wedding? Request a Jack and Ginger (it’s as simple as it sounds, Jack Daniels and ginger ale on the rocks). It’s got a fun name and you won’t need to explain how to make it. A word to the wise: avoid Jack and Coke; for whatever reason, these sound more “frat party” than their lighter counterpart.
For a girls’ night out with an edge try tying on a Stiletto or two (and no, I don’t mean your Tory Burches, though you could wear those too). This simple mix of blended whiskey, amaretto and lemon juice is great on the rocks. Just add your friends and mix well.
Or order a Manhattan; no matter the scenario it’s a classic cocktail (and it shouldn’t take an episode of Mad Men to remind anyone of that–see also: Mint Julep, Old Fashioned, and Whiskey Sour). Typically made with a blend of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters with a cherry on top, this staple drink is sort of the male Cosmopolitan if you will. So put on your pearls and join the party.