By Richard Thomas
The craft whiskey boom in the United States seems to have brought distilling to nearly all of the 50 states, but only a few are seriously vying for the number three slot following Kentucky and Tennessee. Texas is one of the contenders, and with micro-distilleries like Garrison Brothers it’s not hard to see why. Based in Hye, Garrison put out its first release four years ago and in that short time the micro-distillery is already loaded down with praise, including Jim Murray naming their Cowboy Bourbon the “American Micro-Whiskey of the Year” in the 2014 Whisky Bible.
Part of Garrison Brother’s repertoire are their seasonal limited edition “Vintages,” and the Spring 2014 Vintage is something I will point to whenever I hear that small barrel bourbon can’t have depth. This vintage is drawn from 262 15-gallon new, seasoned wine-wood oak barrels aged for between 27 and 30 months (just long enough for the straight designation), making it the youngest release from Garrison yet. I doubt anyone would guess that from the whiskey, though. That combination of Texas summers, properly seasoned wine wood, wheated mashbill, and locally farmed Panhandle white corn created something very enjoyable.
The Spring 2014 Bourbon is bottled 94 proof (47% abv), and Garrison Brothers puts some lovely touches on its packaging. The bottle neck is dipped in thick black wax, and the drawstring for taking off the top is a leather thong (none of the trouble that sometimes comes with Knob Creek there!). Crowning things, the stopper top’s wax is stamped with the Lone Star.
In the glass, the bourbon has a scintillating red-coppery amber appearance. The scent is delightfully floral, in a place where corn sweetness meets orange zest, with a dollop of vanilla on top. If you air the whiskey properly, a tinge of toastiness comes out on the nose’s tail. The flavor has that lovely sweet character from the nose, and the vanilla seasoning is joined by a dash of aniseed and a mixed pinch of other spices, giving it a certain floral and baking spice rack depth. The finish is warm and lingering, with a toasty aftertaste.
Garrison Brother’s Spring 2014 Vintage Bourbon is priced at $69.95.