When two Austin businessmen—Chad Auler of Savvy Vodka and Clayton Christopher of Sweet Leaf Tea—founded Deep Eddy Vodka in 2010, it’s hard to imagine anyone could have foreseen the maker producing more than a million cases per year within less than a decade.
Bottling their liquor with unique flavor infusions was the plan from the beginning. The first product to market was (unsurprisingly, given their combined backgrounds) Sweet Tea Vodka, but it’s when they introduced Ruby Red Grapefruit in 2013—a variant now found in seemingly any bar in Texas—that they truly hit the jackpot. Two years later, Auler and Christopher were able to sell Deep Eddy to Kentucky-based Heaven Hill Brands, best known for bourbons like Evan Williams and Elijah Craig, for a reported nearly $400 million.
The company’s trajectory has only continued upward since then, with an expected production of 1.25 million cases this year. As the brand has grown, so has the number of visitors to Deep Eddy’s Dripping Springs distillery along U.S. Highway 290—about 75,000 last year. To better accommodate those guests, on Saturday a newly expanded tasting room will officially open to the public. Live music, food, and raffle prizes are all planned as part of the grand opening event.
The bulk of Deep Eddy’s production has moved to Buda, which allowed a former distillery space to be converted into a second, warehouse-sized tasting room that triples the original tasting room’s capacity. The new room’s dominant feature is a long bar, with a second “tasting flight” bar to one side, a custom bottling line just behind it, and a performance stage on the opposite side. Farm tables and banquettes provide seating. The company’s hospitality team expects to increase live music programming, starting with “Sips and Sounds” events on the fourth Sunday of each month.
Both the old and new rooms will operate Thursdays through Sundays, selling vodka flights and fourteen different made-to-order cocktails. Due to liquor laws, the bar is limited to Deep Eddy Vodka, non-alcoholic mixers, and lower alcohol accents like vermouths and bitters. To soak up the alcohol on site, food trucks are also on the property Saturdays and Sundays. “Guests get pizza delivered here too,” lead distiller Jason Ducharme says with a chuckle. As they are in retail stores, Beacham reports that the brand’s Ruby Red, Original, and Lemon flavors are the most popular choices in the tasting room.
Ducharme was mum about the next flavor Deep Eddy is planning to add to its product line, though he would say they’re tentatively planning a 2020 launch for it. Meanwhile the new tasting room will host “Flavor Fridays,” during which guests can sample potential candidates—like lime and pineapple—and provide feedback on each. “We have our fruit picked and juiced immediately, then ship frozen 52-gallon drums of juice to the distillery,” Ducharme said of the brand’s unique production challenges as its grow. “Sometimes we have to request an unconventional picking schedule in our order to get the flavors we’re looking for.”
While the drive between southwest Austin and the Deep Eddy tasting room was relatively restaurant-free just a few years ago, the area’s growth has added to the easy pre- and postgame dining options when visiting the distillery. Of particular note are two restaurants in the Belterra Village development: The Switch (one of Texas Monthly’s recent 25 top barbecue newcomers) and Pieous (pizzeria with excellent pastrami). As with all visits to distillers and brewers, guests should look to designate a driver, or hire a car if the whole party plans on imbibing. Google “Dripping Springs shuttles” or “Dripping Springs party bus” for a number of options.