Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Garrison Brothers Distillery: Hye Times For Brown Liquor in Texas

Being an unapologetic Texaphile, every so often I imagine myself 120 years ago, sitting in the dark and smoky Menger Hotel bar, drinking a glass of whiskey with Teddy Roosevelt as he recruits me to join his Rough Riders. Or I daydream about sititng in the richly-appointed Driskill Hotel bar in Austin, as dusty cowpokes mix with wheeling-and-dealing politicians. And once again, I'm sipping a bourbon.

Even back then, if bourbon was your firewater of choice, you probably weren't drinking anything made in the Lone Star State. Now you can.

Garrison Brothers Distillery, located in the Hill Country hamlet of Hye, is the first-ever bourbon distillery in Texas. (And yes, contrary to popular belief, true bourbon can be made outside of Bourbon County, Kentucky. Law dictates that Bourbon must be a whiskey made of at least 51% corn and undergo two years aging in new, charred oak barrels, among other things, but there are no geographical limitations.)

After calling to set up an appointment on a balmy Saturday afternoon, we were met by owner Dan Garrison in his small, yet busy stillhouse. He and his ragtag staff are literally working around the clock to brew their whiskey. Like any Texan, Dan is proud of what he's got going, and he has every right to be.

In the center of the room was the "Copper Cowgirl" -- a 100-gallon still that works overtime and has seen duty at the Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace distilleries. They make this stuff by hand, in ridiculously small quantities, redefining the term "small batch." Their mash contains West Texas corn ground on site, wheat that's grown on premises, and malted barley from the Pacific Northwest. That recipie results in what they say the highest fermentable sugar content available. That, of course, makes for smooth, complex bourbon.

And one that's apparently quite popular. The 2008 vintage was released on November 3rd and within ten days, all 1,800 bottles had been snapped up -- reportedly to a tune of nearly $90 for each 750ml vessel.

Dan doesn't apologize for the price, nor should he. The batch we tasted was simply the smoothest bourbon to ever cross my lips. Normally, I like my whiskey on the rocks -- even the premium brands tend to open up a bit with a slowly melting ice cube or two. The Garrison Brothers we sampled was served neat -- and what a pleasure it was. Smooth without being syrupy, warming without burning, with all the vanilla and caramel flavors that define a good bourbon.

Thankfully, Garrison is expanding his facility and was meeting with a builder the day we met him, so there'll hopefully be more opportunities to snap up a bottle or two of this uniquely Texan spirit.

Photos taken from the Garrison website... I was an idiot and forgot my camera.


  1. Hey Scamp,your setter in photo #40 looks just like my daughters do Jack. Check him out in my Picasso they must have similar breeding. In The Panhandle this past week-end really tough there.A shot glass full of Texas best might have helped.

  2. I keep trying to like bourbon as much as scotch. I really want to. It would certainly help the wallet a little. Not much, but a little. Maybe if I just drink enough of it...