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City of Austin honors funky Texas spirit with proclamation

Arianna Auber
The City of Austin has proclaimed that Nov. 16 is Texas Sotol Day in honor of the Driftwood distillery Desert Door, which celebrates its anniversary on that day. [Contributed]

The Mexican spirits of tequila and mezcal, made from agave, are flying off bar shelves — so how about a Texas spirit produced from a similarly rustic plant?

When three Austin-based military veterans started distilling an earthy spirit from a prolific West Texas plant last year, they weren't sure how the local market would take to Desert Door Texas Sotol. But now, on the eve of their brand's one year-anniversary, they have their answer.

Desert Door, made from a spiky, heat-tolerant Dasylirion wheeleri plant known colloquially as “desert spoon,” has received a proclamation from the City of Austin: Nov. 16 is Texas Sotol Day, in honor of the distillery's one-year anniversary. On that day, Desert Door's co-founders, Judson Kauffman, Ryan Campbell and Brent Looby, will throw an anniversary celebration where, no doubt, the proclamation signed by Mayor Steve Adler will be in prominent view.

So will the beautiful ceramic bottles that house Desert Door's second release of a 100-proof, oak-aged sotol, reminiscent of a bourbon or brandy. The Desert Door Oak-Aged Sotol is only being sold at the distillery in Driftwood for $100, and you can pick it up at the anniversary party this weekend. The party, from 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 16, will have a special cocktail menu, live music by Jonathan Terrell, food from Licha's Cantina and a visit from traveling honky-tonk Hello Trouble Hall.

For the three co-founders, who met at the University of Texas' business school, just seeing Desert Door's distinctive blue bottles in stores across Texas is incredible enough. After debuting in Austin and San Antonio, the sotol has officially expanded into Dallas, Houston and other markets in the state.

"A year ago we were just hopeful we'd be in a couple of restaurants in Austin by now. Turns out Texans are falling in love with sotol on the quick, so we're pretty thrilled with how far we've come in 12 months," Kauffman said in a news release.

Mexico also has sotol plants, but they produce a very different taste than those Desert Door sustainably sources from 75,000 acres in West Texas, leaving the roots intact so each of the plants grow back. (Desert Door is the only U.S.-produced sotol.) Desert Door's unaged version — far more common to find — has a distinct, grounding earthiness livened by floral notes and a sweetness that keeps it accessible for a range of palates.

Desert Door is located at 211 Darden Hill Rd., Driftwood. For more information, visit