Texas Spirit

Craft vodka from the heart of the Lone Star State


Later, there would be a booming distillery. There would be artesian springs and copper stills and 11 employees, all cranking out luxury vodka, right there in the heart of Texas. But first, there was just an elementary school kid with an awesome fixation.

"This sounds crazy, but the seed truly took hold when I was a young child," says Gary Kelleher, co-founder and master distiller of Dripping Springs Vodka. "My great, great grandfather was a vodka maker for the Czar of Russia, and as a little kid, I heard all these stories about it from my great aunt. So, at age 7, I announced that I would make vodka when I grew up. And I hung onto the idea."
In the decades that followed (and well after he hit legal drinking age in his native state of Texas), Kelleher worked in bars and restaurants, awaiting the right moment to open up shop, and searching for the key to the whole endeavor: Spring water.

"About 60% of the flavor of any vodka is the water, so in order to get our long, mineral finish at the end, the water was absolutely crucial," Kelleher says. "Some of the water available in central Texas is the very best in the world."

The water chase led Kelleher to Dripping Springs, a tiny town not 30 miles outside of the state capitol, where, alongside his brother and business partner, Kevin Kelleher, he began to teach himself to build and work a still.

"It was completely trial and error. I'm not a chemist, I'm just a guy who likes vodka," says Kelleher. "I thought, you know, I'll work on this a couple months and get it figured out. Well, it was literally two years ... I kept thinking, damn. Surely I'll figure this out tomorrow! I'd found the spring, and after having studied all the great vodkas of the world, I knew what I wanted it to taste like, but I didn't know how to get there. And 279 batches later, I finally got the flavor I was looking for."

Made in tiny batches (at 50 gallons a go, Dripping Springs creates the smallest batches of commercial spirits in the world), the vodka reflects Kelleher's respect for and admiration of the surrounding land. Dripping Springs artesian water "doesn't have an incredibly clean, flavorless taste, it actually has some character," says Kelleher. In order to maintain the Hill Country nuances of the main ingredient, the brothers built a filtration system that would take out impurities, but leave in as much Texas as possible. What remains -- and is bottled after a five-day production process -- is the ultimate in locavore liquor.

"My thought was always to combine the best elements from all of my favorite vodkas," says Kelleher. "It has a complex flavor palate with lots of different notes. There are chocolate and vanilla notes, and a very long, dry, mineral finish at the end. It's what I was always hoping to achieve."

Dripping Springs Vodka is available throughout Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana.

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: gwblas
    135612 4

    I drink my vodka on the rocks. I have tried most brands, including the ones that think their vodka is worth $75 to $100. Once I tried the rest I was lucky enough to try the best - Dripping Springs. At any price this is the best vodka that you can buy. Do like I did, get a bottle and prove it to yourself. You'll be glad you did.

    Aug 20, 2010 at 8:52 AM

  • Snooth User: JaeDi
    187573 1

    How do we in the deep South get the opportunity to sample a bottle of this lucious vodka? Is it available to ship to North Carolina?

    Aug 20, 2010 at 9:21 AM

  • Snooth User: cgspres
    330588 1

    Seeing as Tito's Handmade Vodka is a top notch Texas spirit and the crowning jewel in Vodka (from Texas), maybe this is a gem too. If they compare to Tito's, they've got something there.

    Aug 20, 2010 at 12:27 PM

  • Snooth User: mrchili
    420561 7

    Dripping Springs Vodka beats Tito's hand down. Tito's gives me an instant headache. I think the only reason Tito's is so popular is because it comes from Austin. It just ain't that good. Dripping Springs is.

    Aug 20, 2010 at 2:09 PM

  • Snooth User: Rimrock
    352734 10

    I like Tito's but Dripping Springs is better. Tito's is a little "harsher" to my taste. Luckily, I live in Texas and both are on the shelves here. Their price point is a little lower than say, Ketel One, which I love too. Isn't great to have such great choices today!

    Aug 20, 2010 at 3:57 PM

  • Is this sipping vodka? How is it best served and can we get some up to Virginia tout suite?

    Aug 21, 2010 at 2:13 AM

  • Snooth User: Mizztee42
    136267 9

    It's official! Us high-class vodka drinkers in the upper South-East side of the Carolinas and Virginia need a taste of what we are missing. How bout a directory of where closest we might find a spring from the well of the Big Spirit of Texas!!
    Signed a Little Girl from NC

    Aug 25, 2010 at 1:00 AM

  • Snooth User: Bowie
    564110 1

    Tito's has never lost a taste test or contest and won the Texas Vodka Throwdown recently against all other TEXAS vodkas. The Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms called it the most pure spirit they have ever tested...and he still makes it in small batches as well with the same water...


    Aug 25, 2010 at 4:01 PM

  • Snooth User: SANMAC
    491992 9

    I have to admit- I will always try the local brews. Tito's first batches were excellent. subsiquent bottles did give the headache. I enjoyed Dripping springs very much. hope they can keep the quality up. Be on the lookout for Cinco Vodka made in San Antonio. We here in SA should also be proud of Ranger Creek Brewery - just starting up= 4 beers and a whiskey
    on line.

    Sep 05, 2010 at 11:30 AM

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