Did you know there are at least 16 Texas distillers with products available on liquor store shelves? You might know of a number of vodkas and rums, but the variety extends to gin, bourbon, corn whiskey, single-malt whiskey, orange and lemon liqueurs and even an agave spirit.
Producers of these products have experienced heartwarming local support along with hard knocks competing in the world of Big Distilling. With astounding growth over the last five years and no end in sight, Texas spirits producers have elected to band together to form the Texas Distilled Spirits Association.
“We felt the time was right to establish Texas spirits as its own brand to be marketed in its own right,” says Paula Angerstein, founder of Paula’s Texas Spirits. “We are all little guys compared to the national brands, and we shouldn’t waste energy competing with each other. We needed to pull together to grow the market for Texas spirits as a whole—then we all win.”
The new Texas Distilled Spirits Association is a trade association, initially dedicated to education and marketing efforts that will bring more brand awareness to Texas spirits. “Most people are flabbergasted to learn there are so many locally made spirits,” says Angerstein. “But after sampling them, they are almost universally impressed with the quality and are likely to purchase them.”
Ultimately, the group will tackle efforts to make Texas spirits a critical component of Texas tourism; several producers already have tourist-friendly distilleries with tours and sampling, though Texas law prohibits sales of spirits at distilleries.
Tito Beveridge of Fifth Generation, Inc., maker of Tito’s Handmade Vodka and the original distiller in Texas, envisions the association having a role in a broader context. “I see a great opportunity to expand recognition of Texas as the premier American craft-distilling state,” says Tito. “The quality of spirits being produced in Texas has no rivals nationally or internationally. The American craft-distilling movement started here and continues to expand with an assortment of beautiful products across the spectrum of spirits. It’s really exciting to nurture it and watch it grow.”
Members of the inaugural board of directors of the Texas Distilled Spirits Association are Paula Angerstein of Paula’s Texas Spirits, Daniel Barnes of Treaty Oak Distilling, Jason Malik of Spirit of Texas, Kelly Railean of Railean Distillers and Chip Tate of Balcones Distilling.
While the group is still in its very early stages, initial members have all expressed a sense that the time is right to start unified efforts. Though some of the group’s goals are ambitious, Angerstein notes that “you gotta start somewhere.”