Field Trips: Texas' Treaty Oak Distillery

The once Austin-based distillery settles in at Dripping Springs and makes friends with neighbors.

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All photos by Maggie Kimberl.

I was recently invited to visit Treaty Oak Distilling in Dripping Springs, Texas for the celebration of their 12th anniversary. It was clear from the experience that the perseverance and hard work it took to build this distillery has paid off as it settled in. Founder Daniel Barnes faced some unique struggles starting a distillery in Texas. At first he focused on making rum because his wife really liked it, but the plan was always to eventually move into whiskey, doing it right and taking his time to learn along the way. =

It’s More Than Just A Distillery

Initially located in North Austin, a few years ago Barnes and his business partners made the move to Dripping Springs, Texas to a 28 acre plot of land that had been a ranch. The distillery came online first, followed by a barrel barn and then an open-air cocktail bar. Today there is a state-of-the-art cocktail lab as well as a sit-down restaurant, named Alice’s after the founder’s mother, that features such favorites as smoked tomahawk steak and a classic wedge salad.

Daniel Barnes

Daniel Barnes

On the weekends, hordes of people come out from nearby Austin to tour the many distilleries and breweries that have earned Dripping Springs the nickname “Drinking Springs.” There’s live music, food, cocktails, and a chance to meet people who share a love of bourbon culture. There are often vendors on site, and one of the most popular ones is Smokey’s Mobile Cigar Lounge, a vintage Airstream trailer converted to a posh cigar lounge. It’s a community place where everyone can gather and have a good time. There’s even a playground for any kids brought along for the ride.

Invested In The Success Of The Local Community

Treaty Oak Distillery isn’t just a fun place to hang out on the weekends. The team is also committed to maintaining a relationship with local farmers and millers. In fact, a portion of the distillery was recently sold to local miller James Brown, lovingly referred to as The Godfather of Corn. Brown, who owns Barton Springs Mill, will build and open a full-scale mill complete with a malting floor on the property, supplying milled grains to the distillery.

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Brown works with local farmers to resurrect and produce heirloom varieties of corn, from the now famous Bloody Butcher to a Central American green varietal he cultivated by planting the last 18 pounds of seeds he could find in the center of a one square mile plot of land so as to avoid cross-pollination. Brown was able to send that seed to multiple area farmers for the next growing season. While Treaty Oak generally uses Yellow Dent no.1 corn, there are plans to incorporate different heirloom grains into the mix.

The Future Looks Bright

While distribution is still limited, it is growing quickly now that there is a steady supply of aged bourbon for their Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon brand. Currently available in Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska, soon Treaty Oak’s products will spread to Illinois, Kentucky, and more. There’s also a Red Handed Rye and a Red Handed Bourbon, which are sourced products, as well as Waterloo Antique, No. 9, and Old Yaupon Gins. There is a relationship with Constellation Brands, which also has a relationship with the Bardstown Bourbon Company, so look for collaborations between the two in coming years.