A small distillery in Dripping Springs is joining the ranks of Texas distillers who have been demonstrating since 2009 that Kentucky isn’t the only state making good whiskey. Swift Distillery, owned and run by Nick and Amanda Swift, is introducing a single malt to the market this week — a smooth, buttery spirit, they said, with notes of ripe peaches, rose and chocolate.
The couple decided to open a whiskey distillery together after noticing their jobs were forcing them to spend a lot of time apart.
“We cook together every night, always have,” Amanda Swift said. “We always have a drink when we do that, and that’s sort of how the idea formed. It was our dream to do something together and not be apart for 80 hours a week.”
Of course, they didn’t know much about making whiskey. Nick had just finished grad school at St. Edward’s University and was starting a career in fundraising. Amanda spent long hours working at a biology lab at the University of Texas, where she had gone to school. Regardless, they had their dream and spent a few years trying to make it happen, traveling to the world’s big whiskey epicenters of Kentucky, Scotland and Ireland and learning tricks of the trade from 30 different distilleries, then returning home and testing their knowledge of the craft. They wanted to make a single malt because they noticed that’s a style of whiskey Texas distilleries haven’t ventured into as much, and they both like Scotch.
After about three years getting their distillery up and running (in the old space that San Luis Spirits used to inhabit), they’ve finally got a product they’re proud of. Another big point of pride for them is that they’ve done each part of the process themselves.
“We probably tried a couple hundred different options of grains, barrels, yeast,” Amanda said.
Thanks to her science background, they’ve been able to make the single malt with water that’s been controlled to match the composition of Scotland and Ireland’s water. They’ve also imported the Scotch tradition of aging the whiskey in bourbon barrels and a Spanish sherry cask, the latter of which was particularly key for the flavor they desired. “It adds its flavor that we love. Lightly sweet like peaches and a subtle floral nose like roses,” Nick said. “Bourbon, you get more toasted vanilla, more of a one-note profile.”
The Swifts had hoped for slightly more time aging the single malt but needed to start turning a profit. Maybe once the bills are paid, Nick said, they’ll let future batches of the whiskey age longer.
They’ve turned over about 230 cases to distributors and are now working on getting more out. Their daily routine these days is to cook the grain, run the stills and cooper the barrels, and afterward, Nick visits the store owners who have picked up Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey to thank them for their business.
“It’s hard to do every single step with just the two of us, but I’m glad that we went that route,” he said.
Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey is 43 percent ABV and retails at $55. For more information, visit the Swift Distillery website.