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First Ever Texas Whiskey Festival Crowns Best Of The Lone Star State

Of the different areas of the country where a certain type of regionalization of whiskey is taking place, one of those standing out the most is Texas. The distillery industry here is quite healthy, having one of the largest number of active operations making/bottling spirits across the United States. A good number of them have whiskey under their roofs, so it stands to reckon a state specific whiskey festival would emerge to bring them together in front of consumers.

Texas Whiskey Festival
Some of the whiskeys from the Texas Whiskey Festival (image via Texas Whiskey Festival)

The first ever Texas Whiskey Festival, which happened this past weekend in Austin, Texas, brought together around 550 Texas whiskey loving drinkers and 11 distilleries, the latter of which were showcasing a wide range of whiskey styles, including bourbon, rye and American single malt, that were either distilled by them or sourced and bottled. The event was quite a lively affair, with long lines waiting for pours at the distillery tables through most of the evening.

I was invited to be a judge for the festival, and arrived some hours earlier to a nearby office, along with two other judges, including a local beer writer and a bar manager for a well known Austin-based restaurant chain. We were presented with approximately 22 whiskies to try across five entry categories, including Grain to Glass (distilled by the distillery itself, not sourced and bottled), Bourbon, Corn Whiskey, Rye Whiskey and Malt Whiskey. Some whiskeys were entered in more then one category, and it was quite fascinating to compare them side by side against one another.

Texas Whiskey Festival
Judging whiskies at the Texas Whiskey Festival (image copyright The Whiskey Wash)

Based upon the tallied results from myself and the other judges, here were the official Texas Whiskey Festival winners, broken down by category and top placements:

  • Grain to Glass
    1. Yellow Rose Outlaw Bourbon
    2. IronRoot Republic Promethean Bourbon
    3. Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon
  • Bourbon
    1. Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon
    2. Ironroot Republic Promethean Bourbon
    3. 1876 Texas Straight Bourbon
  • Corn Whiskey
    1. Austonian Whiskey
    2. Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon
    3. Balcones Baby Blue Whisky
  • Rye Whiskey
    1. Ben Milam Whiskey Rye
    2. Yellow Rose Distilling Rye
    3. Balcones Distilling Texas Rye 100
  • Malt Whiskey
    1. Balcones Distilling ‘1’ Texas Single Malt
    2. Andalusia Whiskey Co. Revenant Oak

There was also a People’s Choice award decided upon the night of the festival. The rankings for that:

  1. 1876 Texas Straight Bourbon
  2. Garrison Brothers
  3. Yellow Rose

Certainly there were some surprise winners from the judging portion of the festival, which was done in a blind-style tasting format. It also showcased how it doesn’t necessarily require you to have a well known distillery name to produce a well crafted whiskey. Regardless of the distillery, however, what was mostly on display both at the festival and in the judging was the fact the Texas whiskey industry is maturing quite nicely, taking advantage of its regional resources to create spirits that are of increasingly higher and higher quality.

Nino Kilgore-Marchetti

Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the former founder of The Whiskey Wash, an award-winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y globally. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert, and judge, he has written extensively about the subject, been interviewed in various media outlets, and provided tasting input on many whiskeys at competitions.

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