As bourbon ages in American oak barrels in a warehouse behind Still Austin Whiskey Co.'s tasting room, the distillery continues to experiment with additional types of booze — and the latest is one that combines just about all of Austin's favorite things.
The Delevante Coffee Liqueur releases this weekend as a nuanced mixture of yellow corn whiskey, coffee from nearby Spokesman Coffee, cocoa nibs, vanilla extract and sugar. Despite the ingredients, the coffee liqueur isn't overly sweet and features a nice whiskey kick, with plenty of rich coffee notes to boot. Using whiskey as the base, just as Still Austin did with its rye gin earlier this year, was a no-brainer, assistant distiller Ali Bloch said.
"We created it so you can smell the coffee, smell the chocolate, but know that it's a liqueur based off our whiskey. It's got pretty much all of the things that Austin loves. Coffee, sugar, liquor," Bloch said.
Locally made coffee liqueurs aren't new — our city's addiction to the caffeinated beverage means that, of course, distillers have created it in booze form, too. (And yes, coffee beers also proliferate here.) But what is new is the aged whiskey base. Revolution Spirits, in the Dripping Springs area, makes Cafecito with neutral corn distillate, the same spirit that's in another popular Austin-made coffee liqueur, Caffe del Fuego.
Still Austin's new product is a tribute to the whiskey maker's master distiller, Michael Delevante, who Still co-founder and CEO Chris Seals said is "the most experienced master distiller in North America." He had gone into semi-retirement, after decades in the liquor industry, mainly working with rum, but Seals and the other founders of Still Austin lured him from Canada to custom-design the distillery's 42-foot column still that towers over the Still facility.
The Jamaican-born distiller now in his 80s created a coffee liqueur recipe 45 years ago during his days making rum, and indeed, that original recipe — featuring beans harvested from the Jamaican-based Marley Coffee family farm — calls for rum as the base spirit. Although Bloch wanted to recreate Delevante's first coffee liqueur, Still Austin's version not only has whiskey but also dials back the sweetness.
"He has a big sweet tooth," she said.
Delevante is based in Toronto, but he'll be in Austin this weekend for the Delevante Coffee Liqueur launch party, from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday, signing bottles and visiting with fans. Having him here is a real treat, Seals said. The party also will have specialty cocktails and tastings; a portion of the proceeds from mixed drinks using the liqueur will be donated to Emancipet at the end of the month.
Notably, the whiskey base in the new coffee liqueur isn't the same as what's aging in its bourbon barrels. But it does, as per Still Austin's philosophy, rely on all Texas-grown grains.
"For the coffee liqueur, we wanted the whiskey to be sweeter and softer and not subtract from our reserve we're using for the bourbon, so we had a bunch of yellow corn from when we played around with our original mash bills," Bloch said. "We decided to play around with that and throw it into some barrels. It had a lot of natural sweetness, so we thought it nicely mimicked the rum of the original liqueur."
Delevante Coffee Liqueur is $32 per 375 ml bottle, and you can purchase it at he distillery and tasting room, located at 440 E. Saint Elmo Rd. For more information, visit stillaustin.com.