Treaty Oak Distilling Co. founded in 2005 (originally named Graham Barnes Distilling) has a name that’s as Texan as they come – and uniquely and endearingly Austin since it’s also named after a tree. One of the oldest living trees in Texas the Treaty Oak is the spot where Stephen F. Austin signed a border treaty with Native Americans – a significant move since the tree was part of the original council oaks that were admired by local Comanche and Tonkawa tribes.
In 1989 someone poisoned the tree with lethal velpar – nearly killing it. But even though more than 60 percent of the tree had died it survived anyway and it’s large and healthy today. That special and historical significance has extended to the Treaty Oak Distillery.
The result is a labor of love that has turned into a successful distillery with three distinct and equally successful brands. Treaty Oak Rum was the first offering followed by Waterloo Gin and most recently Starlite Vodka.
Waterloo Gin: Cool and Refreshing – Just Like Austin
There’s nothing quite like a cool gin and tonic on a blistering hot Texas summer day by the pool – and Waterloo Gin is the liquor of choice for many Austinites when it comes to making that classic cocktail.
The name of the gin pays homage Austin’s original city name. In 1837 settlers arrived in Central Texas – founding the village they called Waterloo on the banks of the Colorado River. It was the first permanent settlement in the area and by the year 1839 the community had adopted the name Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin – also known as the “Father of Texas.”
The folks at Treaty Oak had always planned to release a gin since introducing Treaty Oak Rum in 2007. Founder Daniel Barnes wanted to stay true to the style of a traditional London Dry Gin but also wanted to make it clear what this gin was definitely born and raised in Texas. In November 2011 that goal became a reality.
Waterloo is a distilled gin – not a compound gin – which means that its distinct botanical flavors are infused into the column of the still while the wash is boiled. The concentrated and vaporized distillate then passes through the botanicals and absorbs the flavor. On the other hand distillers make compound gin simply by steeping botanicals into a neutral grain spirit.
The difference is one you can taste. Treaty Oak uses a heady combination of juniper lavender orange lemon and grapefruit zest; plus rosemary anise coriander licorice root ginger root and pecans to flavor Waterloo gin. All that infusion of flavor makes it a gin that’s as big as Texas itself.
Treaty Oak Platinum Rum: A Little Caribbean Right Here in Texas
Like its namesake tree Treaty Oak Platinum Rum is destined to be a classic. It’s clear in color and you can’t smell a rum-like sweet alcohol aroma – giving your first clue that this is a highly-distilled and refined rum.
Part of the reason is the process used to make Treaty Oak Platinum Rum – by hand from scratch using only Texas ingredients including molasses that comes from the last operating sugar mill in the state located in Santa Rosa in South Texas. A special process gets rid of any impurities in the molasses allowing the rum to ferment before the mixture goes to a copper column still. After blending with local spring water and filtering through activated charcoal the result is a premier silver rum identifiable by its rich flavor and smooth taste.
Starlite Vodka: Pure Smooth – Just Add Lemon
Treaty Oak’s newest spirit offering is Starlite Vodka distilled seven times from a blend of both corn and wheat – giving this bar basic a complexity that founder Barnes wanted to make it stand out from a vodka market that has become increasingly crowded in recent years.
Barnes has said that good vodka should be viewed much like fine wine – with the inevitable nuances that eventually emerge between different varieties and distilleries. The Treaty Oak distillery says that the best way to enjoy Starlite is on the rocks plain and simple.