Passion is one of the main components in a successful business. That’s why it’s so fun to be able to come across passionate people who have been able to take their dream to the next level, the physical step of starting a business doing what one loves.
Central Texas and the Hill Country is having a boom and distilleries are growing, too. It seems that every time you turn around there’s a new spirit being made in our very backyard, many in neighboring Dripping Springs and Southwest Austin.
Husband and wife distillers Nick and Amanda Swift are owners of Swift Distillery and are fresh on the scene to offer their very own Single Malt Texas Whiskey.
Just short of calling it “Scotch”, the drink mirrors the brewing and distilling styles of Scottish Whiskey, even adding salts to their water to mimic the same salts in the waters of Northern Ireland and Speyside, Scotland. The yeast used is even from the same place in Scotland, giving the spirit the distinct and tasty characteristics of Scotch … just made in Texas.
By keeping with this Scottish tradition, the duo hope to bring an entirely new type of whiskey to the Texas market, one handmade batch at a time.
The whole process takes over 2 years to complete, from start to finish, which makes every batch that much more special when they are finally ready to break into it and have a drink.
Subtle flavors emerge over the course of months and years, taking on the unique hints of the Oloroso sherry casks and Kentucky bourbon barrels that make them so delicious. The casks are sourced from all around the world, from Kentucky to Spain. It’s a chance to impart rare and surprising flavors, like fruits, chocolate and vanilla.
The impressive part about the entire operation is that everything is carried out by two people — like brewing, distilling, running the business and even traveling for sampling sessions all over the state. It’s a passion that they realized they had for whiskey years ago that has kept them going, all the way back to 2012 when they decided to make the big step to becoming full-time distillers.
Amanda admits, “We both enjoy cooking dinner and having a drink, and when he was in grad school and I was working full-time, we basically never saw each other. So we kept joking and daydreaming of the things we’d like to do. And somewhere along the line, we were like, ‘We should make Scotch.'”
It took a few years before they were able to make the moves to start the distillery in Dripping Springs, but after trips to Scotland, Japan and Kentucky for tours on the infamous whiskey trails, the idea started to seem like a reality.
Amanda’s background in biology came in handy when dealing with exact measurements, formulas and recipes for the Scottish spirit. Take that and pair it with Nick’s knack for art and the finer details of distilling whiskey and keeping the casks working properly as the resident cooper. In the end, it’s a winning combination for the distillery and also for Austin whiskey drinkers looking to sip something a little different.
“We just wanted to do one thing extremely well and so this was kind of what we were passionate about,” Nick explains as we tour around the 3.5 acre property just to the southwest of Austin.
Yet it wasn’t an easy task to step up to, distilling one of Scotland’s most famous drinks stateside, but after a few years of practice and trading tips of the trade with fellow distillers, they were able to come up with their recipe for Swift Single Malt, a sweet, smooth and almost buttery Scottish whiskey that rivals secret recipes from across the pond.
“We’ve tasted a lot along the way. So we had a million notebooks that kind of said ‘Don’t do this … don’t do this,’ until we kind of perfected the process,” Amanda tells me as we get ready to check on one of the newest batches aging in those special sherry casks, one of the many daily steps along the line in distilling spirits.
Once they sourced their two handmade stills from Portugal and fine-tuned their recipe for the first few batches, Amanda and Nick were able to get down to the details of what makes Scotch so special, including sourcing and using Scottish two-row barley and single malt yeast, which are the basic foundation for Scottish whiskey as we know it today.
“I think it’s interesting that three really basic ingredients — water, barley and yeast — can make such drastically different drinks,” Amanda admits when we talk about all of the types of beers and spirits that can be brewed from the same things, even going so far as to make an entire business from it.
You can find their spirits at your local Twin Liquors, Total Wine or Specs. And don’t forget to check back on their blog for the newest tastings in the area. It’s a great way to meet the distillers in person and get a feel (and taste) for one of the newest whiskeys on the market in Texas.