First things first. The phrase “fierce whiskers” could act as a catch-all compliment to members of the Austin Facial Hair Club, or as words of encouragement for a particularly sassy cat. Instead, it's the name for the latest entry into Austin’s burgeoning premium distillery scene — and it comes with a very interesting history.
The new whiskey brand is the work of energy entrepreneurs and native Texans Tri Vo and Tim Penney, both of whom decided on a career change after developing an interest in the culture and science behind distilling.
"At the end of the day, we are just two nerds,” Vo tells CultureMap. “We love looking at things in-depth. We loved learning about the history of whiskey and learning what processes make the best possible whiskey. After developing this interest, we thought ... we need to figure out how to do this full-time in Austin. Our love of whiskey inspired our career shift."
To help them along the way, the co-founders tapped Jim Beam veteran Randy Allender, who will manage the production process. The team expects to start distilling their first products, a rye and a bourbon, shortly after construction of the distillery is completed in January 2019. If all goes according to plan, Fierce Whiskers Straight Rye will hit shelves in 2020 followed by Fierce Whiskers Straight Bourbon in 2022.
The two building facilities, designed by San Antonio-based architectural firm Overland Partners, will allow the team to tightly control every aspect of the process. Aging will be done in an air-controlled four story rickhouse (a whiskey aging facility used to store barrels in “ricks” or racks) designed to allow viewing of the barrels from the outside. The second building will house the stills, where the whiskey makers will employ a technique they have dubbed a “Texas Tight Cut” to separate the tops and bottom of the distillate, keeping only the purest part for aging.
That building, located at 5333 Fleming Court in South Austin, will also include an industrial design tasting room so guests can experience the product on site.
And if you are wondering where the distinctive name comes from, it was stumbled upon by local branding experts Butler Bros (they created the look for the company as well as Real Ale Brewing, Tacodeli, We Are Blood, Tequila 512, and Thinkery, among others), who stumbled upon a quote in the biography The Life of Rutherford Birchard Hayes Nineteenth President of the United States by Charles Richard Williams.
According to the book, the former president called Austin “ an inconsiderable village with large expectations” with “fierce whiskers, gaming, and drinking very abounding in all quarters” — an apt description even to this day.