Andalusia Whiskey Company: Where Distillers go to Drink

Andalusia Whiskey Co., in Blanco, TX, is a very straightforward and relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy cocktails, or delicious whiskey on its own.

To get the full story on the founding of Andalusia, you have to go back several years to when co-owners Ty Phelps and Tommy Erwin were working at Real Ale Brewing Company. Real Ale owner Brad Farbstein enlisted Ty and Tommy to launch a spirits line (recently branded as Real Spirits, reviewed here). Looks like Ty and Tommy enjoyed it so much, they decided to open their own distillery up the street from Real Ale/Spirits. ("Just look for the big blue barn, you can't miss it." my tour guide at Real Ale tells me).

The comfy tasting room is well attended by about 5pm on a Saturday. If you're not up for standing at the bar (there's no stools), there are plenty of leather sofas and armchairs to lounge on. Between the whiskey-colored furniture and distilling bric-a-brac on the walls, you will feel like your perpetual-bachelor buddy simply opened up his loft to the drinking public.

I opt for the bar, where I'm greeted fairly quickly by Ty. I tell him I was just at Real Ale and they strongly recommended I stop by. That cracks a smile across Ty's face. I can tell, from that alone, that the relationship between Andalusia and Real Ale remains strong. Hell, I doubt they would open up shop practically next door if it wasn't.

There are three whiskeys on offer: a white, a single malt and a smoke-infused single malt, all 100 proof.

The White Pearl (you guessed it, that's the unaged whiskey) is of a 60/40 barley/wheat mash. It has a musky nose, with a palate of charcoal and a sweet finish.

The Revenant Oak, their best-seller, is made all of a Scottish malted barley mash. It's double distilled, then aged for six to nine months in used bourbon barrels from Garrison Brothers. The time spent in the barrels is apparent in the nose, which reminds me of a tart apple juice. The palate continues the apple theme, but this time with a deeper character of charred wood.

I'm most excited to try Stryker, their wood-smoked single malt, not only because I love anything smokey, but also because Ty says it reminds him of BBQ. You have to remember, I'm deep into my Texas BBQ kick at this point.  Andalusia smokes the barley themselves using three types of wood: oak, apple and mesquite. My mouth is watering already. Then it's aged in new American oak for six to nine months.

So what does that get us?  Neither the smell nor taste disappoints. The nose has the animal musk of a good beef jerky. The palate is spicy wood without much of that beefiness. I'm still loving the smoke flavor, and am torn between wanting to smell it and wanting to taste it. If I continue to stand here sniffing at my glass, I'm sure my neighbors at the bar will begin to back away slowly.

Speaking of neighbors, my ears perk up when I hear the young man to my right talking about some experimental runs through his still (that didn't turn out so great). He's accompanied by two women and another guy. It's only when Ty comes over and formally introduces us, do I notice the Rangers Creek logos on their shirts. They all work at the distillery in San Antonio and are up here for.... well, I guess a mix of research and fun.

I had not visited San Antonio at this point, so we chat about some of the highlights that await me there (as well as some places they suggest I skip, which, for the sake of empiricism, I won't). Ty sees I'm enjoying the conversation and, like any great bartender, intuits that the only thing I'd like more is a cocktail. So many delicious-sounding options to choose from. I figure a traditional Old Fashion is the way to go in such a manly setting - all the leather and stained wood finally taking its toll.

Ty jazzes it up by using an as-yet-unreleased non-peated single malt. It's delicious: deep cherry and bitter flavors with just a hint of spice. My only dilemma is how do I make it last? I can't have more than one drink with the hour drive back to Austin looming. Good thing I have my new Ranger Creek friends here to help pass some time - and valuable real estate at the bar. By now, crowds are trickling in - happy day-drinkers that may or may not be aware of the special treats Tommy and Ty have in store.


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