Austin, Texas knows how to live graciously with refined, yet unpretentious style. It also knows how to live easy in shorts and flip flops poolside or by the lakes. Austinites feel right at home lounging on a rough-hewn dock and mingling in cocktail attire at an art opening in the same day. Fortunately we have home-grown vodkas that suite both of those moods: Savvy Vodka and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka.
For those nights when you feel sophisticated and want a drink to match, Savvy Vodka fits the bill. When you’re feeling down home, Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka is as comfortable as a worn pair of cut-offs.
To learn a little bit more about both of these spirits I visited an unassuming building in North Austin which houses the distillery of both vodkas. Chad Auler, founder and CEO, gave me the low-down on the operations. Like Auler, a sixth-generation Texan, both vodkas are Texan through-and-through.
The Savvy Vodka recipe calls for local ingredients, including high quality corn from south Texas and water from central Texas. In developing the recipe, the Savvy team tested multiple ingredients. You might think that the son of the founders of one of Texas’ oldest wineries, Fall Creek Vineyards, would go with grapes. Nope. Auler finds grape vodka to be a little more astringent and potato a little thicker than he prefers. He chose corn because it imparts a hint of sweetness on the nose. The Savvy team was shooting for a flavor profile that was balanced, smooth, slightly sweet and creamy.
According to Auler, there are three things that make great vodka:
- The distillation process
- Proper filtration
- Quality water
There are two types of distillation – column and pot. Vodka goes through multiple rounds of distillation and each round removes more impurities. Pot distillation is the original method, used for hundreds of years and is still used by boutique distilleries and large operations alike. With pot distillation, the distillate has to go in and out for one distillation and then repeated. In a column, the distillate is circulated continually. The column holds an exact temperature to keep it right at boiling point of ethyl alcohol which allows the bad alcohols to cook off while preserving the good stuff.
Auler found a renowned still maker out of Kentucky who steered him toward a custom designed column still to get the best quality. The continuous distillation allows for the vodka to be distilled the equivalent of 20 times or more in a single run. It’s not only efficient in distillation, but it’s also environmentally efficient. To cool the vodka as it vaporizes, keeping the cycle going, Savvy continually cycles 2,000 gallons of cold water. The recirculating water is used for up to a year, saving thousands and thousands of gallons. Not only that, but the still itself uses a fraction of the energy of a pot still. Savvy and conscientious.
Next comes the filtration. Savvy Vodka is filtered six times over activated charcoal to remove any remaining impurities. The aim is to produce the smoothest vodka possible.
Water is essential to vodka, because the multiple distillations give it higher alcohol content than desired. In fact, the Savvy Vodka comes off the still at an eye watering 190 proof. They diluted that hooch to a palatable 80 proof using, what Auler describes, the best water in Texas. The water comes from aquifer on the Fall Creek property owned by his family. They have run independent tests conducted by the Lower Colorado River Authority and the University of Texas to validate its purity.
Here is Chad describing the water’s source.
Auler is typically a martini drinker, but on hot summer days when friends invade his back yard he makes what he calls a Daryl Royal. He mixes Savvy Vodka with Topo Chico and a splash of grape juice and a squeeze of fresh lime. It’s a refreshing outdoor drink with a touch of sweetness without being over bearing. His drink recipes and job in the beverage business obviously make him a magnet for visitors. He claims he hasn’t run out of vodka at home yet, despite his friends’ consumption. That’s because he hasn’t invited me over yet. Yet.
I gave it a try, and I would make a run on his stock. I tasted this straight, slightly chilled in a chilled martini glass to release the aromas.
||Crystal clear like fresh water melting from a million year-old iceberg, flowing at its own pace, viscous and silky.
||Delicate floral scent, light and clean.
||Silky smooth hint of sweet almond, dough and pepper. It has a smooth lingering finish with a mild bitterness on the end.
I gave Beautiful Wife a blind taste of Savvy next to another premium vodka. She winced at the strong taste and heat of the first vodka, describing it as harsh and overly peppery. She smiled slightly at the second one and described it as smooth, thicker, less peppery and even kinda sweet. She preferred the second glass, the Savvy vodka. There’s more to her than beauty.
Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka
Sweet iced tea is ridiculously popular in Texas. It’s not a stretch for it to be mixed with alcohol to make a fun libation. Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka was born a bit more than a year ago when Auler decided to formalize a joint marketing relationship Savvy had with Sweat Leaf Tea, mixing a fun cocktail known as the Sweet and Savvy. Auler met with Clayton Christopher, the founder of Sweat Leaf Tea, realized they have the same strict outlook on making a quality product. The two decided to partner and launch a new product named for a favorite spring-fed swimming pool.
Like Savvy, Deep Eddy uses local corn, water and local honey from Good Flow Honey. It’s not completely local, but it’s all natural 100% pure cane sugar. The black tea is brewed from whole Indonesian tea leaves. Chad and Clayton tested hundreds of tea leaves and made a selection of a very classic tea that had exactly the taste profile they were looking for.
I think they hit the mark. I tasted this over a few cubes of ice in a rocks glass. Just the way I’d drink it on a hot summer day.
||Deep caramel brown with a weighty viscosity forming long tears on the side of the glass.
||It smells exactly like Grandma’s fresh brewed tea with a hint of honey. Perfect for sipping pool side on a hot summer day.
||The approach is all black tea and honey. The mineral backbone of the vodka sneaks in with a hint of heat that lingers with the sweet honey finish. It’s as bracing as the first dive into the cold spring fed waters of Deep Eddy pool in Austin.
Between Savvy and Deep Eddy, the still is cranking out around 35,000 to 40,000 cases this year. Right now the two brands are available only in Texas, but that could change in the future. You can find both at your favorite bars, restaurants and shops throughout the state.
My friends who live outside of Texas, keep your eyes peeled for these vodkas to creep over the border. Friends in Texas, you know what I’m talkin about. Whether you are ready to dress up or dress down, you’re covered. Go get ya some.
What are you drinking?