By Father John Rayls
Garrison Brothers Distillery, claimant as the first legal whiskey distillery in Texas, is found in the heart of the Texas Hill County. That puts it north of San Antonio, east of Luckenbach (yes… that Luckenbach) and west of Austin, near Johnson City (as in Lyndon B Johnson). It is a small craft distillery in the truest sense of the term. Almost everything is done by hand, using mostly available local resources. This includes Panhandle white corn, soft red winter wheat (which they grow themselves), and barley from the Northwest. They grind their own grain, cook their sweet mash, and then distill, barrel and bottle it.
As such effort shows, Garrison Brothers believe they are pursuing the “Holy Grail of artisan craftsmanship,” and their single barrel bourbon is an example of that. This particular Texas straight bourbon whiskey is bottled at 94 proof and at 3 years old. Of course, the distillery ownership tries to quickly deflect any question of youthfulness by stating: “Our bourbon cycles in and out of the wood year-round. Aging bourbon whiskey for months in Texas’ cyclical climate can yield a whiskey that tastes like it has been aged for decades in a cooler climate.”
At a small craft distillery, innovation and change can happen very quickly and quirkiness and uniqueness can become its calling card. This single barrel bourbon brings tradition with it, but shows its own presence too.
The bottle is beautiful with a silverish dark grey Lone Star on the front, and an additional one on the cap. These adornments appear to be done in the same wax in which the neck dipped, ala Maker’s Mark, but Garrison has made their wax sealing process different enough to get around Maker’s process ownership.
The bourbon has a beautiful dark copper coloring that really sets off the bottle with the wax. It looks even better in the glass. My bias here is that this is the appearance I want all my bourbons to possess. It is a medium viscosity bourbon with long legs.
The nose is a little more pronounced and delivers butterscotch, vanilla, oak and some light nutmeg. It’s a very enjoyable aroma, which adds greatly to the overall enjoyment, so don’t hurry this part of the whiskey experience. It takes a little patience and a little self-control combined to help focus your attention.
The taste is almost entirely from mid-mouth to the back. The sweet caramel, vanilla and oak help create a warm and inviting environment, but its the sweet oak flavor seems to primarily drive this tasting. The long finish brings the taste back to the middle of the mouth before settling down. The finish brings multiple waves of flavor, but in a very gentle way. Bottom line: Garrison Brothers Single Barrel offers a very enjoyable experience.
Originally, the bottles were only available in the distillery retail store at $109.99. However, they are now available from limited local liquor shops for about the same price. This is a very popular whiskey and is outselling the flagship bourbon for Garrison Brothers by about 2 to 1, despite the higher price tag. As a result, good luck getting your hands on a bottle. If you can, you will be see why this bourbon is so popular.