The maker of Dripping Springs Vodka has been busy: San Luis Spirits has not only recently launched another liquor into the market, Dripping Springs Gin, but also has a newly created tasting bar ready for when the distillery opens its doors to the public for tours starting Tuesday.
The family-owned spirits company, established in 2005 by brothers Kevin and Gary Kelleher, had already produced three varieties of vodka — Dripping Springs Vodka, Drippings Springs Orange (flavored with hand-zested Texas oranges) and 1876 Vodka (a take on well vodka) — when San Luis' distributor, Republic, approached them about doing gin. Kevin Kelleher said they had already considered producing the juniper-based spirit, and a lot of time and thought went into the research process: what botanicals to add, how much of each and how to distill them with the alcohol.
The variety and quantity of botanicals was particularly important, he said, because gin isn't as popular a spirit as vodka, with many people leery of trying it.
"One of the things I've picked up over the years is that people have a problem with gin," Kelleher said. "I think traditionally, Americans gins weren't very good. So people who had them when they were younger, it's a sort of olfactory memory for them. It put them off and they didn't forget it. But modern gins are moving in the right direction and picking up a new generation of drinkers."
He and his brother, during the experimental phase, deliberately steered away from creating juniper-forward London dry gin, a common style associated with the spirit. They found themselves preferring soft floral notes, a hint of spice and a Texas influence in the form of oranges from the Rio Grande Valley. Those elements, they thought, would help to make the gin accessible, rather like Drippings Springs Vodka has become.
Dripping Springs Gin features nine botanicals, although Kelleher will only reveal five of them: juniper, of course, along with cardamom, hibiscus, orange and lime. The lime adds a Southwestern touch that "really makes it a Texas gin. No reason why we can't make it fit in with beer and tequila and vodka," he said.
To make the gin, distillers macerate the botanicals and mix them together in specific measurements before steeping them for 24 hours with Dripping Springs Vodka. The botanical-and-vodka "tea," so to speak, is then re-distilled through San Luis Spirits' 50-gallon handmade copper pot stills. The distillery devotes four of the 15 stills to the gin. It's a process that takes three days, but all that's worth it for Kelleher, who isn't interested in producing mass quantities of his product quickly.
The result, after all, is easily one of the more thoughtful gins I've tried, full-bodied and carefully delivering each element — the floral, the spice, even the soft minerality of the original vodka — one by one.
Visitors to the distillery, starting Tuesday when tours to the public begin, will have the opportunity to try each of San Luis Spirits' boozy offerings, including the gin. But first, they'll go on an hour-long guided tour of the facility, from the bottling line to the row of copper stills in a back building.
Tours will be available Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 1 and 3 p.m. by appointment only, with a limit of six people per tour. Each one is $10, and you'll be able to come home with a complimentary Drippings Springs Vodka shot glass. Make reservations at www.drippingspringsvodka.com.
The Dripping Springs Vesper
2 oz. Dripping Springs Vodka
2 oz. Dripping Springs Gin
1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
Shake ingredients together with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.