Since my return to Houston a couple of years ago, I have anxiously monitored the Texas spirits market. In Chicago, I had the great small-batch spirits from North Shore Distillers, including Distiller’s Gin No.6 and their Aquavit. But, despite the boom of Tito’s Vodka years before, the Texas market remained relatively quiet, adding only Paula’s Texas Spirits until 2007. I was always puzzled by these circumstances because if there is anything that Texans are fanatical about, it is products made in Texas. Nevertheless, over the last year, several new brands have been released – a clear sign that Texas interest in spirits and cocktails is on the rise.

Amid, all of these developments, I thought it would be appropriate to profile each of the existing Texas micro-distilleries and preview those on the way. The Texas micro-distillery market is still young, and for it to survive and resemble anything like what can be found in California and Oregon, cocktail fanatics in Texas need to support these brands. So please, become familiar with the producers and consider them a viable, and often preferable, option to other global and national brands.

Paula’s Texas Spirits
Established: 2003
Founders: Paula Angerstein
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: I want everyone to be aware of Texas spirits, but more than any other, I wish more people would buy Paula’s Texas Orange and Paula’s Texas Lemon. There may be no other more tediously crafted spirit made in Texas; they actually hand zest every single orange and lemon used in the production of this spirit. Recently, I had the opportunity to try the new and improved Paula’s which is charcoal filtered, and it is incredible. If you are making your margaritas or any other cocktail without Paula’s, you’re missing out on what is clearly the freshest and most vibrant orange liqueur on the market.

The Margarita
1.5 oz Tequila
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Paula’s Texas Orange Liqueur

That’s it; don’t add anything else. No margarita mixes, no simple syrup, just booze and lime juice (which comes from limes, not bottles with the brand Rose’s on it). Shake them all with ice and strain into a cocktail glass or on rocks if you prefer. Salt the rim if you feel the need. And for the love of God, please don’t put it into a machine or blend it.

Tito’s Vodka
Established: 1997
Founder: Tito Beveridge
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: Tito’s is the most well-known Texas spirit. Tito’s helped to launch the national micro-distillery movement, and it has since become a nationally recognized brand.

Savvy Vodka
Established: 2007
Founder: Chad Auler
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: Chad Auler, who may also be known to some through Fall Creek Vineyards, started this Texas vodka.

Dripping Springs Vodka
Established: 2007
Founder: Kevin Kelleher
Location: Dripping Springs, TX
Profile: Dripping Springs just refuses to quit fighting after two fires and flood. Dripping Springs is located just outside of Austin – there must be some sort of vodka-making disease going through that area.

Railean Rum
Established: 2007
Founder: Kelly Railean
Location: San Leon, TX
Profile: Instead of buying a one time distilled spirit, like most micro-distillers, these folks actually ferment their molasses on site just outside of Galveston. Additionally, they were the first to release an aged spirit with their Railean XO Rum in addition to their white rum. Here is my winning recipe from the Tipsy Texan Drink Local Cocktail Contest which features Railean XO Rum and Paula’s Texas Orange:

False Dichotomy
2 oz Railean XO Rum

1 oz Lemon Juice

.75 oz Honey-Lavender Syrup
1 Egg White
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake all ingredients except the bitters with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Mist the angostura bitters on top and garnish with a lemon twist.

Treaty Oak Rum
Established: 2007
Founders: Bruce Graham & Daniel Barnes
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: Treaty Oak is named after a 500 years old Live Oak that is at the center of countless stories and legends in Austin. Treaty Oak is also house-fermented and is made from Texas molasses. Currently, Treaty Oak is only available as a white rum, but I hope to see an aged version in the future. Treaty Oak, with Railean, has definitely raised the standard for spirit production in Texas.

Texas Gin
Established: Under Construction
Founders: John Manicom
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: I talked to John recently by phone, and he told me he was getting closer to launching Texas Gin everyday. He mentioned using Texas juniper and other herbs in the process – sounds very Texan.

Temptryst Rum
Established: Under Construction
Founders: John Manicom
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: Temptryst Rum was all the rage at Tales last year when a few samples were made available during rum competitions and gained widespread notoriety. The rum is pressure aged with various woods, which creates a unique spirit. I’ve yet to try any myself, but those I trust love the stuff. The mesquite aged rum sounds amazing. I sent Temptryst an e-mail recently; they are still trying to get started and hope to release the rum soon.

Garrison Brothers Distillery
Established: 2008
Founders: Dan Garrison
Location: Hye, TX
Profile: Garrison Brothers has barreled over 100 barrels of bourbon, and they plan to let each age the necessary amount of time until it matures. The wheated bourbon is mashed on site and uses Texas Panhandle corn. I spoke with Dan Garrison at the Edible Austin Drink Contest, and he said that he hopes the bourbon will be available in 2011 but is willing to wait until it is ready. He also mentioned that he would like to launch a Texas Rye in the future too called Hye Rye.

Balcones Distillery
Established: Under Construction
Founders: Chip Tate
Location: Waco, TX
Profile: I haven’t talked to Chip and can’t find a website, but I have heard that he plans to use peated malt to create a distinct Texas whiskey. They also plan to make Rumble, which is a rum-based liqueur flavored with mission figs, Texas wildflower honey, and turbinado sugar. Sounds awesome!

Well, there you have it – the booming Texas micro-distillery industry. I really enjoy these spirits, and I hope that you will give them all a try and support our local producers. I am excited about the growth of this market, but more than anything, I am thrilled to have met most of the folks behind these brands. I must say they are some of the most genuine people I know making spirits. But, I guess you already knew that – they are from Texas after all.


  1. Mike says:

    Great to feature some Texas spirits, some of which I’m not familiar with. I know someone who learned to brew beer under Chip Tate’s tutelage, and I eagerly await his whiskey hitting the market.

    As a side note, how many of these are you planning to stock at Anvil?

  2. Ward says:

    Are most of these available at, say, Spec’s?

  3. Robert Heugel says:

    Mike – We stock each of the spirits that are currently available with the exception of some of the vodkas because we just don’t use vodka at Anvil very often. Who is your friend by the way, and when is his whiskey coming out? And where is he located?

    Ward – These products are all available at the downtown Specs; go get some!

  4. Tito’s is the only one I have tried … It’s a pretty good vodka and beats anything in the price range.

  5. Victoria says:

    Well, you just made my Spec’s shopping list up for me. Thanks, Bobby! I tried the Railean rum during a trip to San Leon and loved it even as a sipping rum.

  6. Bill says:


    Can you email me contact info for John Manicom–I’d like to talk to him, but I don’t think we’ve met.


  7. Carter says:

    Robert, thanks so much for this article. I’ll def. refer I’m a big fan of what I’ve seen of your work, and can’t wait to get a chance to head to Houston and see Anvil(and hopefully the Railean distillery.)
    I run the liquor department for the big Spec’s in south Austin, so I’ve gotten to know a few of these people.

    Rumble, Chip Tate’s liquor isn’t just flavored with honey and figs, it’s supposedly going to be actually made from them, as in, that’s part of the mash. The article in the Austin Statesman got the quote wrong. Chip called me and corrected it.

    Daniel Watson is the guy in charge of Temptryst Rum. I’ve been out to his house in the hill country to do tastings and I can easily say that of the thousands of spirits I’ve tried, even some of the things he considers failures are among some of the best things I’ve ever had.

    I’ve talked to some other gentlemen recently who are planning on opening a distillery for agave spirits in south Austin, so we’ll see how that goes a well.

    Would love to get in touch with the Garrison brothers and see what they have to say.

  8. Devo says:

    Wow, thank you for this post; I hadn’t realized there were so many additional Texas liquors.

    And re: Carter, it sounds like there’s a tequila on its way, too. I keep wondering if Tito is going to return to his original intention to start making small batch whiskeys. Can you imagine a Texas Rye?

    I note from your list that they are basically clustered in and around Austin. I wish Houston had a more robust distilling (and brewing) culture. There’s plenty of hobbyists (like me) around here, but precious few professionals (not to slight the magnificent advent of Southern Star). And I can’t help but wonder why.

  9. Wade Woodard says:

    Bobby – nice blog. I picked up 2 bottles of Paula’s Texas Orange at Specs. I tried your margarita recipe; I must have had some tart limes and needed to up Paula’s Orange to an oz.

    Also, Texas just passed a bill that allows these distillers to provide up to 1/2 oz taste samples on site for tours of each product.

  10. AM says:

    Great listing! I visited Railean Rum and got a wonderful in-depth tour from Matt – plus the first on-premises tasting. Now I need to see what the masters at Anvil can do with Railean. (Like Victoria says, it is a fine sipping rum too.)

  11. Steve Germer says:

    Hey Texas spirit enthusiasts….We just put the first batch of Rumble in the barrel (May 27th) and hope to be to market in about 45 days. Anyone wanting info please contact me at until the website is up and running….

  12. Steve Germer says:

    UPDATE: Balcones Distilling bottles first run of Rumble on July 18th!
    UPDATE” Website up and running
    Hey all, after what seemed like an eternity , we have cases of our beautiful amber-colored Rumble bottled and in cases and ready to send to our distributer. Aside from some bruised palms from plugging corks, and blue wax on the floor from our hand-dipped bottles, we all survived the exciting day and hope to see you all soon,
    Stephen Germer

  13. As a Texan, it’s always nice to see someone interested in Texas spirits. Tito’s paved the way for a lot of micro-distillers, and hopefully many more will find success. And after a couple of decently sucessful vodkas, it’s great to see other spirits popping up as well. Still waiting to get my hands on some Temptryst and Balcones.

  14. bose qc3 says:

    Your webpage is actually full of superb detail and also is actually really interesting to read.

  15. Can’t wait for the Texas gin. The more botanicals, the better. My golden standard so far is Death’s Door. Out of — gasp — Wisconsin! Don’t hold it again’me.

  16. Jim Golden says:

    Wow – I consider myself a Rum connoisseur, but I haven’t heard of several of these distilleries. I’m heading to Houston next month. I may just have to schedule a day trip to take a few tours. Do any of them do tastings?

  17. Paul Michels says:

    Great profile of the Texas micro distillery market. A couple additions to the list to round it out though: D.E.W. Distillation in Wimberley Texas, manufacturer of Cypress Creek Rum, and a brand new start-up, Powderfinger Spirits, in Buda, Texas, who is just about to go into production. Cheers!

  18. Daniel Watson says:

    Temptryst Rums new facility is under construction in Driftwood Texas. The project is being run by me. John Manicom has never had anything to do with Temptryst Rums.

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