Three new products from the Treaty Oak Distillery launched last month, and they’re already winning awards.
The distillery previously made only un-aged spirits, but they’ve launched into new territory with aged versions of the Treaty Oak Rum and Waterloo Gin, and a blended Bourbon. All three won gold medals at the recent Great American Distiller’s Festival.
Owner Daniel Barnes says he’s long been a whiskey aficionado, and the aged spirits category is something he has wanted to try from the early beginnings of production. Here’s a breakdown of the new products.
Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve
Take the rich vanilla and molasses flavors of the flagship Treaty Oak Platinum Rum and throw them into a barrel for two to three years, and what do you get? Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve, a well-balanced, big, oaky spirit, ready to spar with any well-respected national brand.
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The distillery folks thought they would follow the craft crowd and age the rum in small barrels for speedy maturation, but Barnes said “as we compared the small barrel to the bigger 53 gallon barrels, we couldn’t believe the difference in sweetness and flavor compounds. You get butter, caramel and popcorn. It’s a completely different product that comes through.”
The final product is aged in 53 gallon new American oak barrels with a medium to high char level, meaning a good amount of wood flavor is contributed to the liquid as it sits, but not so much that it overwhelms the natural flavors of the base liquor. At 80 proof, it’s easy and enjoyable to sip neat, but also works well in a variety of tiki cocktails, and as a Rum Old Fashioned.
Aging gins is still not a widespread practice in the craft distilling world, but that didn’t stop Treaty Oak from finding the best way to try to do it with Waterloo Gin. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau says that aged gins cannot legally be called barrel-aged gins, so Treaty Oak is calling the spirit Waterloo Antique.
Barnes says the final product came out much better than they had anticipated. Most aged gins on the market sit for a few months in small barrels, but Treaty Oak wanted to explore the long-term changes. He says after around two years, the flavors stop evolving, so for the final product they let the gin sit in 53 gallon new American oak barrels for one to two years before blending and bottling.
“With the rum, we know when we get close to that third year we get an optimal flavor. With the gin, there are certain points during the aging transition where flavors change, and we wanted to keep a bit of the botanicals to mix in with that big, heavy, back-end winter spice that we’re getting with the two year aged. So we blend two different ages together.”
The final product is unlike anything I’ve tasted before. Barnes calls it the “child of both whiskey and gin,” and it’s the best way to look at the product. It has all the oaky, vanilla elements of your average whiskey, but with dark, herbal and baking spice-like botanicals thrown into the mix. At 94 proof, it’s a bit more intense to drink neat, but Barnes says he’s had success drinking the spirit in a Gin Sour type-drink, and an Old Fashioned application (minus additional bitters).
Whiskey producers around the country often try to hide the fact that when they make a blended whiskey, several kinds of ryes and bourbons are often purchased from around the country to produce the final product. Very few, if any, make the entire thing from scratch. Enter Treaty Oak’s Red-Handed Bourbon, unapologetically featuring whiskies culled from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.
“We want to be upfront and honest with people and tell them exactly what we are doing,” Distiller Joshua Holland said. “We are selecting barrels that have flavor profiles that we like, blending them together, re-barreling them for however long we determine, and selling it. (The name Red-Handed) is a cool, craft way to get across the point that everyone is doing it, but we’re being honest about it.”
The distillery is working on making their own in-house whiskey, and the Red-Handed gives them something to sharpen their blending skills. “Part of learning how to make a good whiskey is learning how to blend, so this is kind of us taking the first steps toward that,” Barnes said. “In the whiskey we’re making in-house, we’re using more wheat in the production of those, softer, sweeter wheated bourbon. We wanted this product to be quite a bit different from that, so for it, we went for a much higher rye recipe. It’s still Bourbon, but it has a ton of rye to it. It lends some fruity flavors, some berry, bigger green apple crispness to it, and honestly more bite to the whiskey itself.”
After the selected whiskies are blended, they are put back into new American oak barrels at Treaty Oak, and left to rest for 9 to 15 months before being bottled and sold at 84 proof. Because it has high rye content, the body is much larger and complicated than your average Bourbon, making it fun to play around with in cocktails.
Where to taste
Soon, you’ll be able to taste all Treaty Oak products straight from the source. When the new distillery opens in Dripping Springs, the team will welcome visitors to the tap room, where customers can try the spirits and buy cocktails, thanks to changes in Texas laws earlier this summer that allow for on-site sales and consumption. Check the website — treatyoakdistilling.blogspot.com —for updates from the distillery about tours and tastings in the next few weeks.