The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2015

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Page 30 of 136

30  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2015 A LONE STAR LIFE A lthough Dripping Springs has a population of 1,788, there are nearly 30,000 people living within the surrounding area. About 30 minutes due east lies Austin, and San Antonio is 90 minutes southwest, which means way more than two million poten- tial visitors are close to this hamlet. Forested with cedar and oak and laced with fresh- water springs, this bucolic pocket of the Texas Hill Country also features craft breweries and wineries—there's even a "Drippings Springs Wine Trail." And soon enough, I predict, Dripping Springs will be well known for its craft-spirits tourism. Last year about this time, Chad Auler, co-founder of Deep Eddy Vodka, had just opened a new 35,000-square-foot distillery and showcase tasting room in Dripping Springs, and he told me, "We wanted a place on the edge of the Hill Country, still close to downtown Austin, yet a place that feels like a destination." On a recent visit to his tasting room, I saw that the curious crowds had followed him there. And that's just how it was not too far away at another distillery. Kevin Kelleher, CEO of San Luis Spirits, which includes Dripping Springs Vodka, says that since the distillery's inception, in 2006, there was an interest in tours, which are now run on a weekly basis. "At our size, around 70,000 cases, the tour income isn't of great importance, but the abil- ity to connect personally with consumers is invaluable," says Kelleher, adding that sales are up over 30 percent this year. "If anything, we have found that the presence of other distilleries in the Dripping Springs area has enhanced interest in our facility." It's a simple case of the same tide lifting all the boats. Since the Dripping Springs area was already something of a sweet spot for outdoor enthusiasts, artists and entrepre- neurs, this part of the Hill Country has the potential to attract even more interest through cooperative business efforts, including craft-distilling. Daniel Barnes, founder and Master Distiller of Treaty Oak Distilling Co., just relocated operations to Dripping Springs and says, "It's good to have people come together and encourage growth for the area as a whole." Treaty Oak's lineup includes rum, vodka and bourbon whiskey, and Barnes says that other non-alcohol businesses in the area have expressed a desire to work with him to form beneficial partnerships and promotions. "For our part, the city of Dripping Springs has proven to be very business friendly." As more Texas distilleries start coming online, and more than a few of those start eyeballing tiny Dripping Springs for production facilities and tasting rooms, all parties concerned certainly want careful planning to avoid a glut of quantity operations in favor for steady quality growth. But the writing is on the wall: Lil' ol' Dripping Springs is poised to be a big player. WHEN IT COMES TO THE FUTURE OF ALCOHOL AND TOURISM, ALL ROADS LEAD TO DRIPPING SPRINGS by Anthony Head / photo by Kirk Weddle Booze Capital of Texas Booze Capital The Soon-to-Be Discovered San Luis Spirits has been in Dripping Springs, TX since 2006.

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