As y’all probably already know, we’re pretty proud of the fact that we were the first ones to bring bourbon whiskey to the state of Texas. Since we first kicked off the Texas Bourbon Boom all those years ago, we’ve seen dozens of folks all across the Lone Star State fire up their own stills and get to work on making their own bourbon. In that time, the Texas Whiskey Trail has come to rival anything you can find in Kentucky or Scotland, and it’s only getting bigger every day.
But Texans tend to be a trailblazing bunch, and one look at the shelves of your local liquor store will tell you that whiskey isn’t the only game in town.
Over the years, we’ve seen our little slice of heaven become a hotspot for just about any alcoholic beverage you’d care to name. Whether it’s sipping on red wine next to the Garrison Brothers distillery, exploring craft beers in downtown Austin, or grabbing a bottle of gin made just down the street in Dallas, we’re seeing a massive surge in delicious libations of every shape and size.
But it was a lesser-known spirit, and a damn fine group of people making it, that led to one of our most fun experiments of 2021.
Out in the small town of Driftwood Texas, a small bunch of dedicated distillers at Desert Door are working diligently to produce plenty of one of the fastest-growing spirits in the nation: sotol.
Now, some of y’all might be wondering: what exactly is sotol? You’ll hear a lot of folks compare it to its more famous cousins, tequila and mezcal, but there are a number of differences between them. While all three originate from Mexico, tequila and mezcal are distilled from the agave plant, whereas sotol comes from a plant called the Desert Spoon (or the Dasylirion wheeleri if you’re feeling fancy). Both come from the same family of plants, but the Desert Spoon has the advantage of blooming every couple of years, allowing the plants to be used in sotol production for multiple seasons (unlike agave, which only flowers once).
That said, making sotol is still a labor-intensive process, and a plant will typically only yield enough to make one bottle of sotol. But the process is more than worth it, as the end-result is a smooth, easy-drinking spirit that balances out the rich, smoky flavors of a good mezcal with bright, floral notes that make it a fine choice for either sipping neat or enjoying in a cocktail.
Even with such a complex flavor profile to work with, our friends at Desert Door weren’t content to sit on their laurels. They wanted to push the envelope even further, and when it comes to adding a whole new layer of complexity to any spirit, you don’t have to look much further than a good bourbon barrel.
Unlike the other whiskies out there, bourbon can only be made using a new American White Oak Barrel. Once we use the barrel a single time, we can’t ever make bourbon in it again. Because of that, many of our ex-barrels are used by local breweries, wineries, and other manufacturers to barrel-age their products and imbue them with the same flavors that make our bourbon so damn delicious. But in all the years of doing barrel-aged collaborations, we’d never paired up with anyone making tequila or mezcal, to say nothing of sotol. But as Donnis likes to say, we’ll try anything once, so we sent a few of the barrels used to make our legendary Cowboy Bourbon® their way, and the rest was history.
Over the next fourteen and a half months, the sotol soaked into the spent bourbon barrels, picking up intense flavor notes with each cycle. The end result of this little experiment was Desert Door’s Oak-Aged Sotol Finished in Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon Barrels. Featuring notes of caramel, vanilla, molasses, and baking spice in addition to Desert Door’s existing notes of smoked sandalwood, cinnamon, and burnt orange, this new collaboration wraps everything you love about fine bourbon into an entirely new experience. And based on the initial response we’re getting back, Desert Door’s Oak-Aged Sotol might just be the next best thing to grab if you’re running low on Garrison Brothers. And if you’re looking to see what happens when you combine both of these phenomenal Texas spirits together, we’ve got two fine cocktails that do exactly that: The 10 To 10 and the Cosmic Cowboy.
So if you’re looking for something new from the world of Texas spirits, or you’re looking to try something that doesn’t stray too far away from your favorite bourbon, consider giving Sotol a try. And no matter what you’re sipping, be sure to toast to all the folks out there making Texas the next great hotspot for the beverage world.
Photo Credit: Desert Door Sotol