Garrison Brothers- Bourbon With Flavors as Big as Texas
We’re continually impressed with the incredible distilleries we work with each month. Their innovation, creativity, passion for their craft, and mindblowing releases remind us of how lucky we are to get to taste and share some of the best spirits in the world. This month, we’re bringing you an exceptional feature from Garrison Brothers Distillery, a team we’ve wanted to work with for quite some time. And you’re going to love what we’re sharing with you this month! We hope you’re thirsty!
About Garrison Brothers
Garrison Brothers is the first legal whiskey distillery in the state of Texas and the first outside of Kentucky and Tennessee. Founder Dan Garrison traveled to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in the early 2000s and decided to start producing whiskey after learning that bourbon could be made anywhere in the United States. Legendary distiller Elmer T. Lee taught Dan the basics of bourbon. Afterward, Dan returned to Texas to receive the first license to distill whiskey in Texas issued since pre-Prohibition. Upon working up the first batch of bourbon, he enlisted his brother Charlie, who had a background in sales, to help him distribute and sell the bourbon all across America. The two brothers now work with a passionate, dedicated team that brings the values of Garrison Brothers into every step of the process.
While the team now works together like a well-oiled machine, Dan recounts how tough the early days were. Their first batch of bourbon was totally destroyed during the blistering Texas summer- the casks just couldn’t hold up to the heat. But unlike the casks, Dan’s spirit couldn’t be broken. He found a cooper who was willing to make custom barrels with thick staves that could withstand 130-degree temperatures, and now, these custom casks lend to some of the intense and rich flavors Garrison Brothers’ products have to offer.
Another unique part of the whole process is that the bottling is handled by the Garrison Brothers team and around 15,000 volunteers who sign up to hand-dip each bottle of bourbon. Volunteer bottling provides their friends and fans the chance to get away from everything else that’s going on in the world and enjoy some time taking part in the bourbon-making process. We love this hands-on approach, and bourbon fans love being a part of the process.
Our curator is a huge fan of Garrison Brothers,' products, and even he will admit it was tough to decide which bottle to feature in our clubs. He narrowed his choice down to a couple of things: uniqueness in flavor and the perfect amount of time in the barrel.
He chose the Straight Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey selection, distilled from 74% corn, 15% winter red wheat, and 11% barley mash bill. Made from food-grade grains all sourced from Texas farmers, this includes corn from Pearsall, TX, soft red winter wheat from the Blackland Prairie area, and barley malted in Fort Worth, TX. The distillery never uses “sour mash” or “backset.” Instead, they use homemade sweet mash that is gently and slowly copper-distilled just one time so that you can taste the flavor of the grain.
Besides the high-quality grains, their other unique ingredient is pure Texas Hill Country rainwater harvested from the rooftops of their distillery. Of course, there’s nothing quite like a heavy Texas rainstorm, but if you know that rainwater will be used to make some of the finest bourbon in the country, you’d be pretty excited to hear the sky rumbling! The rainwater enters several filtering processes in a “closed-loop,” including ozonation and ultraviolet light, resulting in an incredibly pure H2O with no chemicals added. We definitely appreciate the sustainability efforts that go into this process!
Master Distiller Donnis Todd hand-selects 55 barrels each week to be dumped together to create their award-winning Small Batch Bourbon. Every drop spends at least three years in their custom-made, extra-thick white oak barrels, soaking up every bit of flavor the searing Texas heat can squeeze out.
The end result is a legendary sweetness that is far smoother than a 94-proof bourbon we’ve found. Enjoying a bottle of Small Batch is an experience unlike any other. It’s rich and full, without the bite. We especially love the color- amber-crimson like a Texas sunset, darker, richer, fuller, and fuller than almost any other bourbon.
Garrison Brothers Balmorhea Twice-Barreled Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey is aged four years in new American white oak barrels made from wood that’s grown, yard-seasoned, and dry-aged for 25 months in the Ozarks. The liquid is then transferred to a second new American white oak barrel that Master Distiller Donnis Todd custom-designed to highlight specific flavors and qualities and aged for another year.
Donnis then filled new white American oak barrels from The Barrel Mill – a Minnesota cooperage – with freshly-distilled 114-proof white dog. The barrels aged in the relentless Central Texas heat for four years. All the while, the liquid inside cycled through the wood’s pores and crevices, extracting every bit of flavor possible. Donnis then lugged the barrels from the barns and dumped the liquid into stainless steel tanks. Next, he rolled a few 25-gallon Kelvin Cooperage barrels from Louisville, Kentucky, below the tank spigot and filled the barrels with the already four-year-old straight bourbon. This second round of barrels had far different lignin and chemical composition than the original barrels because they had been scorched and toasted differently, caramelizing the sugars in a beautiful new way. After aging for an additional year, the bourbon was dumped into a long, thin stainless steel trough the distillery calls The Whiskey Girl, so they could all nose and taste the results. After rounds of tear-filled high fives and brotherly hugs, they landed on a name – the easiest part of getting this sensational liquid to market.
Balmorhea’s name came from a little swimming hole located about 40 miles south of Pecos, Texas. The park’s name comes from four men’s surnames: E.D. Balcom, H.R. Morrow, John, and Joe Rhea. These men formed an irrigation company in the area in the early 20th century. It’s rumored that big game hunters may have gathered at the springs in the Balmorhea area 11,000 years ago. Native Americans also swam the springs before Spanish explorers came to the area. In 1849, the springs were known as Mescalero Springs, after the Mescalero Apache, who watered their horses there.
Like all of the garrison Brothers’ bourbons, Balmorhea is homegrown and handcrafted from the finest, gourmet-grade ingredients all across Texas. It is cooked, distilled, aged, and bottled entirely at their distillery in Hye, Texas. It’s everything rich and good about bourbon without the bite. Enjoying a bottle of this crimson candy is an experience unlike any other, so you should grab a bottle while we have them!
Now for one of the rare gems of Garrison Brothers, the HoneyDew Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The HoneyDew project was 11 years in the making and a departure from previous releases. Nancy Garrison, wife and business partner of Dan Garrison, wanted the distillery to produce a honey-sweetened bourbon whiskey since they started the business together in 2006. However, Dan strongly objected due to his disdain for “flavored whiskies,” hence the name “HoneyDew,” as a play on words. His dislike of flavored whiskies is due to the fact that many of them are gooey, sticky concoctions often made with chemicals like propylene glycol.
Instead, he and Master Distiller Donnis Todd created a unique process of infusing chunks of spent barrels with essences of honey before letting them soak in the Small Batch Bourbon to impart a subtle bit of honey flavor. An important distinction here is that no honey is added to the bourbon; it only touches the barrel cubes that immerse the bourbon with its flavor.
Initially released in August of 2018 as an “experimental” whiskey and only available at the distillery, Garrison Brothers HoneyDew was an overnight success––ultimately leading to its commercial release. The 80-proof bourbon is infused with 100% Texas-made Burleson’s wildflower honey resulting in a smooth, light bourbon with a beautifully-subtle honey finish.
True Texan Bourbon
As a born and raised Texan myself, I love all of the beautiful elements that go into each of these products- from the grains of the farm fields to the rainwater in the Hill Country to the wildflower honey up in Burleson. The team has the grit and determination to make dreams as big as the Texan sky come true, and they follow their passion with true tenacity.
All of us at Taster’s Club love the grain-to-glass techniques Garrison Brothers offers. We have a deep appreciation for their dedication to their craft and the incomparable flavors in each of their products. Of course, being environmentally conscious and community-centered is the icing on the cake! While their process is always evolving, they’re still able to retain the deep, rich flavor notes that have been a crucial part of Garrison Brothers from the beginning, so we’re thrilled to share this fine bourbon with you this month! Cheers!