Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon Review (2017)


By Father John Rayls

Rating: A+

Cowboy Bourbon 2017

Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon 2017
(Credit: John Rayls)

I’m reluctant to give an A+ out, because that grade is the top of the scale and I hate to think a whiskey cannot get any better. But I don’t feel that way about Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon this year. To my way of thinking, it is just that good and I can’t see room for improvement.

Previous Garrison Brothers releases have been very good, and although the distillery’s work has its detractors in the blogosphere, it’s widely agreed they are up to good things down in Hye, Texas. Jim Murray named two separate years, 2013 and 2015, as his choice for American Micro Whiskey of the Year in his Whisky Bible. As a rule, if you like big, bold Bourbon, you will like what Garrison Brothers does. In that vein, some say it’s outstanding for young Bourbon and some say it’s simply outstanding, and this year’s Cowboy Bourbon is outstanding by even Garrison Brothers standards.

I have Bottle #41 and it was distilled and barreled in 2012 using #1 Panhandle White Corn, aged four years and bottled in 2017 at 137 proof. Master Distiller Donnis Todd was the sole hand in picking the barrels and marrying them for this year’s Cowboy Bourbon, so hat’s off to that man!

The Bourbon
The look of Cowboy Bourbon 2017 is simply magnificent. In the glass, it’s a beautiful dark reddish brown looking like mahogany. The light struggles to penetrate the dark, opaque whiskey. There are a few highlights of dark red, brown and dark gold. As the bourbon diminishes in the glass, it takes on a color of deeply burnt copper. The legs are reluctant and short, preferring to bead up around the top of the glass as if held in suspension.

The nose rises easily, and sits somewhere between middling and aggressive in its greeting. It’s filled with ample oak and fresh leather, complimented with caramel. There are some earthy aromas over the top of some very light chocolate. I thought there was no real burn to the vapor, but there is some tingling, so all said it’s not a hot Bourbon despite coming in at 137 proof (68.5% ABV!).

What with that proof, consuming Cowboy neat is not as much of a challenge as might be expected. It’s not an easy sipper, but it can be enjoyed without water or ice. From the start the liquid has a creamy/oily mouthfeel, and it’s flavor is big, bold and packs a punch. Oak and new leather (imagine new cowboy boots) are omnipresent. Beneath that is a nice caramel layer, plus some campfire smoke wafting in and out way in the background.

The finish runs strong and long, kicking in with white pepper. It’s a little hot, but not overwhelming.

If you get the chance, either buy a bottle or at least give it a try off the bar shelf.

The Price
Suggested retail for Cowboy Bourbon 2017 is $220, and even at that price it’s anticipated enough and the supply small enough that the release will go fast.

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  1. This sounds fantastic for a (Texas) 4 year old, but I’d have knocked the plus off the rating for the price alone. I’d have a hard time even justifying a single shot at the bar, for what, thirty dollars?.

    This whiskey was not meant for the likes of me, unfortunately, though it sounds like those who can afford it will love it. Ij the meantime, I’ll have a Dad’s Hat.

    • For my part, I really liked that Dad’s Hat BiB and bring it up whenever I can (case in point). When it comes to grading, I encourage not looking at price. A B is a B whether it costs $25 or $75, and if someone is willing to pay $75 for a B is up to them.

    • I can’t argue with your review logic in the least. As I said, “I’d” have knocked the plus off. I just don’t like being gouged. I truly believe American whiskey stands above others for its inclusive nature, among other attributes, but Garrison and some other craft distillers have made a conscious effort to take the exclusionary route.

      Good for them. At $38 per, I can drink five-plus bottles of Dad’s Hat’s standard expression to one Garrison Bros. And don’t get me started on Evan Williams Bottled in Bond at $14. I understand that the Bros. have every right to position their product as luxury goods. I’m also well aware that they’d be making money on this at $60, too.

      Pass me the Dad’s Hat or the Evan, please…unless you’re buying!

    • No kidding. I need to pause and think on how I would rate Heaven Hill 6YO BiB Bourbon, the Kentucky-only offering, if I were to factor price into it.

    • You don’t have a rating that high!

    • I got a bottle at the distillery in Hye TX for about $140. Worth every penny!

  2. Sorry, this is a hard pass. a 4 year old bourbon for $220?? And aged in Texas means it is not getting the temperature variations of KY (yes, I live in KY, but so does 95% of bourbon, for a reason).

  3. Worth noting this bottle costs significantly less at the distillery ($129). The company gets a bad rap, I think, for the prices charged by distributors and retailers by the time crafters like Garrison hit the shelves.

  4. I was lucky to score (3) private barrel proof bottles and this stuff is by far the best bourbon I’ve had.. The reaction from multiple people who have tried them react the same way.. It’s wow and then that’s the best bourbon I’ve had. I’ve had multiple Pappy bottles and I would take Garrison ever time.. It is $$$ but worth it. One yr aged in Texas is like 4 in Kentucky and you’ll know by the flavor. All of mine were aged just under 5 yrs and they are ridiculous.. 137 proof – 141 and don’t taste nearly that hot. 2oz pour will last for over an hour because you enjoy every sip to the fullest..

  5. Keep in mind distributors get very small allocations and therefore get killed on shipping charges.

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