Texas Bourbon News

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Whiskey Road 290 Speed Trap

Whiskey Road 290 Speed Trap

If you’ve been here lately, you’ve felt it. Hye, Texas (pop. 105) is smack dab in the middle of an awe inspiring spiritual, cultural and economic renaissance like nothing we’ve seen since Gore invented the Internet.

Sure, subtle signs of normalcy remain, if you look hard enough: Ranchers still gather at sunrise down at the Pipe and Feed to load feed and talk about the rain while trying to stomach Mike Buck’s Folgers coffee. The guys down at Deike’s Garage still haven’t moved a single rusting vehicle from their parking lot. And, the Post Office still opens at 9, most of the time.

But change is underway and everybody knows it.

Hye Spirits!

For one thing, there’s soon to be a new business in town. Over the past few months, half the antique store next to the legendary Hye Post Office has been slowly transformed into a star-studded retail mecca. That’s right; we have arrived! Hye’s going to have its own liquor store.

HYE SPIRITS will open this November just in time for deer season. Rumor has it they’ll have an excellent selection of rare, hard-to-find bourbon whiskeys. In fact, I insisted that bourbon whiskey should be the only thing they sell, but the bourgeoisie owners have other ideas. They want to bring in froo-froo beverages like beer from Real Ale in Blanco and wines from Becker Vineyards, Torre Di Pietra and Woodrose Winery. They’re also going to offer locally-made gourmet food. They’re even talking about hosting bourbon and wine tastings on the front porch on Friday afternoons. What’s next? Crepes? It all sounds a little hoity-toity to me. Even so, I’ll probably show up early at those bourbon tastings and occasionally will bring along a few bottles of my own.

Hollywood Comes to Hye

In June, strangely enough, we were contacted by two different television production companies from Dallas. The producers of Body Shots wanted to come to our distillery with two beautiful swimsuit models. Though the offer was intriguing, parting with so much good bourbon was out of the question. We respectfully declined.

The second production company had an exciting idea. They wanted to create a documentary style pilot program about artisan distilleries in America: who is making what, how they’re making it, and what the experts think of the product.

"Action" Scene from the TV Show

"Action" Scene from the TV Show

The trucks, campers, lighting equipment and cameras rolled into little old Hye the last week of July. They filmed at our distillery, in Fredericksburg, Stonewall, Hye and Austin. As part of the production, they interviewed the director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the owner of Twin Liquors, the former master distiller at Makers Mark, and a number of chefs from famous Hill Country restaurants.

The production is in editing now in Dallas. The producer’s plan is to pitch the series as a replacement for the spring 2010 television line-up and they are already in discussions with the Travel Channel and other networks. Well, we’ll see if it works. We all think it might be kind of fun to see little Hye on the TV.

Bourbon Camp 2009

Another prime example of changes taking place in Hye happened the second weekend in September. A cavalcade of shiny Cadillacs, Mercedes and Lexuses from big cities across Texas descended on Hye for the commencement of Texas’ First Bourbon Camp. Fifteen founding members of Garrison Brothers’ Old 300 Ambassador Club rolled into town to learn how to make and enjoy fine bourbon whiskey. We had a spectacular dinner Friday night with Johnny Nicholas at the The Hilltop Cafe. Saturday morning started early with bourbon and breakfast at the ranch. Our guests sampled a wide variety of bourbon whiskeys throughout the day, even as we cooked and distilled a barrel of our own.

Barreling SmallWhiskey Girls SmallDemo Small

That evening the Old 300 Ambassadors rejoined us at the distillery for more bourbon, along with butlered appetizers such as boneless breast of quail in a bacon & jalapeno wrap and tiny tarts of Blanco goat cheese with handmade onion jam. Dinner was spectacular. Guests enjoyed Caesar salad in a parmesan tuile with homemade dressing & croutons, grilled bone-in rib eye steaks with braised shallot and Garrison Brothers bourbon demi glace, potato & garlic chive griddle cakes, roasted harvest vegetables, and Dutch-oven cornbread. Dessert was out of this world: croissant-white chocolate bread pudding with Garrison Brothers bourbon sauce.

Lunch SmallScooterSmallCateringSmall

That night we danced in the rain to live music from acoustic guitar player Scooter Pearce of the Gypsy Cowgirls, who happens to be a Hye native. Did I mention we enjoyed a little bourbon?

If you’re an Old 300 Member and you couldn’t make Bourbon Camp 2009, please plan on attending the second gathering in the spring of 2010. We’ll let Old 300 Members know the date soon.

The Best Little Still-house in Texas

All that “change” and “hope” may be fine in metropolitan Hye. But up the hill at The Best Little Still-house in Texas, we don’t like change much. The three rednecks — Fred, Donnis and I — are still out here every day making fine bourbon and we wouldn’t change that for all the money in the world. This month we filled our 400th barrel and placed it in the barn to mature. By year end, we’re shooting for 687 barrels (more than 30,000 bottles). We’ll make that goal easily but we’re not going to rush things. Barrel #6 reached its one-year-old birthday in May. We brought it in from the barn, said a little prayer, and then gathered around as the bung was hammered out. We transferred the dark, crimson-colored liquid (darkest bourbon I’ve ever seen) into a stainless steel tank and eagerly put our noses over it to smell what we had. To be honest, we were a little disappointed. There were subtle hints of vanilla, licorice, and plenty of oak, but she just wasn’t yet the alluring ambrosia we’d hoped she would be. Dejected, we went back to work.

I returned to the same tank just thirty minutes later and nosed the aroma again. Lord what a difference a few minutes can make! I let out a yell that had Fred and Donnis running to the tank.

Like a fine 1982 Bordeaux, the bourbon had come into contact with oxygen and had quickly evolved into a glorious spirit. As she breathed the surrounding air, her bouquet opened up to reveal peppermint, almonds, caramelized brown sugar, and heavy doses of fresh coconut, butterscotch and vanilla. After enjoying a few samples and sharing a few pats on the back, we were in agreement that we had created something special. Barrel # 6 — at only one year of age — was bottled, then and there, as our benchmark, our profile — the finest bourbon whiskey I’ve ever tasted. All the Kentucky and Tennessee bourbon whiskey bottles we’d been testing ours against were removed from the distillery. From then on, the new standard that the other aging barrels would have to live up to was our own.

What this means to you — the discerning Texas bourbon drinker — is that bottles of Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey WILL be available at your favorite restaurant, bar or liquor store by the fall of 2011. Once you’ve tasted it, I know you will share my enthusiasm.

Three Rednecks

Three Rednecks

Since May, the quality of dozens of our barrels has been tested. Many, at just one year of age, have neared or surpassed Barrel #6 in terms of color, aroma, legs, taste and finish.

Barrel #6 Sample

Barrel #6 Sample

Expert Endorsements

We make our bourbon one batch at a time and one barrel at a time. As the White Dog comes off the still, we’re taking each gallon and running a number of quality control tests to assure the quality. Only the sweetest, fruitiest White Dog makes the cut. If it meets our high standards, it goes into a barrel for maturation.

As it matures, the bourbon attempts to evaporate from the barrel, soaking deep into the wood on hot Texas afternoons. When it does, it mingles with the sweet chemical compounds in the wood (guaiacol, eugenol, furfural, oak-lactone and vanillin) that give the bourbon its buttery caramel and vanilla flavors and its amber color and earthy texture. The bourbon escapes the wood when it’s cold and returns to the inside of the barrel, taking these flavors along with it.

Master Distiller Dave Pickerell

Master Distiller Dave Pickerell

Dave Pickerell was the master distiller at Maker’s Mark for the past fifteen years. He was very much responsible for the outlandish growth of the brand, which continues to grow at a clip of about 10% per year. He’s also a good friend of Garrison Brothers and was the first master distiller to genuinely welcome us to Kentucky back in twenty-aught-six. During his visit for the television production, we poured Dave a sample of our one-year-old. Here are Dave’s unedited tasting notes:

  • Visual:  Color – Very dark amber
  • Legs: Long and lingering
  • Nose:  Delightful and surprisingly complex … Caramel and Vanilla abound with a well defined hint of butterscotch
  • Taste: Wonderfully sweet and full mouth without any hint of bitterness. Caramel, honey, vanilla, butterscotch, and oak in great depth.
  • Finish: Crisp, clean and long … incredibly warm and long

Making Bourbon This Good is Expensive!

Every month we’re cooking 20,000 pounds of the most expensive corn in the world and we’re filling 50 equally expensive northern White American Oak slow-growth barrels. So, yeah, we’re burning through some cash.

If you’re willing, we’d like your help offsetting some of these expenses. We’ve launched Garrison Brothers’ Dry Goods Store and you’ll find some nice t-shirts and bumper stickers there. Please take a look and consider buying one. Each time you do it enables us to make more bourbon.

If you really want to help or get involved, you can join our ambassador association, The Old 300. If you choose to join, I can personally guarantee you’ll soon know more about fine bourbon whiskey than anyone else in Texas and you’ll have a great time learning.

When Can I Get A Bottle?

No one wants to sell a bottle of Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey more than I do. The bourbon in our barns is getting better every day. Donnis, Fred and I visit the barn once a week and take samples. We’re not convinced we’re ready yet but we’re getting very close. Complexity and character come quick around here, but — we will not bottle any bourbon before its time! We’re going to give it all the time it needs to become truly spectacular.

As soon as the bottled bourbon leaves our distillery on its way to stores, restaurants and bars, we’ll let members of The Old 300 know first where they can buy a bottle. They’ll help spread the word. And I promise you, the whiskey will be worth the wait!

Distillery Tours and Tastings

sign small
It was mentioned in the spring update that we were emphatically behind a bill in the 21st Texas legislature that would permit distillers like us to conduct tours and provide samples to visitors. Not only did the bill pass but it passed both houses unanimously. Since then we’ve welcomed hundreds of visitors to Hye and have started pouring small samples from Barrel Number 6.
So, if you don’t buy all this fancy marketing propaganda about how good our bourbon is, come on out and taste for yourself. We won’t be officially open for tours until spring 2010, but if you’re willing to call first and schedule a “sit and sip” we might be able to show you around. Also, since the law prohibits us from selling you a bottle direct from the distillery and they won’t let charge for tastings, know in advance that we’re going to ask you to buy a t-shirt.
Have a happy fall and winter. We’ll check back in with you on Texas Independence Day in 2010.

Kind regards,

Dan Garrison
Proprietor and Distiller

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posted by Dan Garrison in Fall 2009 Newsletter and have Comments (25)

25 Responses to “TEXAS BOURBON NEWS, Fall 2009”

  1. Tim says:

    Awesome news. I can’t wait to taste some of your bourbons. I wish you all the best and we’ll come back up in 2010 to sit and sip. And, I just have an idea on how to sell some of your bourbon in Hye at that liquor store. Not the same as at your distillery, but the customer is driving by the liquor store on the way… no way around it.. 🙂


  2. Robert T says:

    Great update, Dan! Thrilled to see the progress and look forward to purchasing my first bottle.

  3. SONNY DAVIS says:


  4. Bill Owens says:

    Your dream do come true. Living in the Texas and drinking bourbon.
    Bill Owens / American Distilling Institute

  5. Adam Frerich says:

    First, that was a really cool newsletter. I would like to receive future newsletters. Second, do you ship bottles? If I ordered a bottle or two, could you ship it to me. It is cool to know that a building I sold is a distillery in a huge city, has a movie filmed in it, and is the focal point of a community. Ya’ll keep it up, Adam

  6. Dan, Great newsletter and I can’t wait to get my hands on your bourbon. Keep up the great work and let us know how things are progressing. By the way, it sounds like the Old 300 had a great time.

  7. Kaye Van Wicklen says:

    Wonderful write up. I can’t wait for the blog to get started. I need to come by sometime and pick up the “bourbon” I won in the Bourbon Camp contest. Hope all is going well. Hope to see you soon! My best to Garrison Brothers!


  8. Jeffrey L Minch says:

    Damn interesting story. Best of luck and congratulations on your continued success!


  9. Maurice Janda says:

    Howdy, I hope you guys remember me. I spoke to you briefly, a while back about distillers grains. I am so exicted to hear about your “Texas Bourbon” and I can’t wait to have a sip and a tour. Good Luck.
    Maurice Janda

  10. Patrick Beach says:

    Dan, excellent writing and highly entertaining. Keep ’em coming. I’m buying a T-shirt to make sure the boiler stays on.



  11. bill curra says:

    Dan: barrel #6 sounds like a winner. great news for us bourbon-style whiskey afficionadi! I hope to visit your operation in 2011.

  12. John Rihn says:

    Good luck with this endevavor.
    Please add me to your e-mail list.

  13. Dan Garrison says:

    Thanks for all the kind words ya’ll. No bottles for sale yet.

    Maurice, I sent you an email last week. If you didn’t get it, please call me.

  14. lance tomlinson says:

    Dan,from all of us at eddie v’s cant wait to enjoy all you labors

  15. Robert K says:

    Thanks so much for letting us barge in this past Saturday, your hospitality and time taken to show us around was most appreciated. The samples were awesome, better than any bourbon I have ever tasted, can’t wait until it is available, it’s deemed to become another Texas Legend,Thanks

  16. John Wagner says:

    Dan, Sorry about crashing your party awhile back. Thanks again for the tour and cant wait to be able sit and talk when you have some time. If you are around for opening weekend of deer season come down and drink a beer-boubon and eat some BBQ with the group. Your neighbor, John

  17. Mike Sherman says:

    Dan, Congratulations on your success. I’m glad to hear the Vendome still is doing it’s job. Keep me posted on things and I’d like to make a trip down one day soon. Take care, Mike

  18. Congratulations! I have a Drink Texas Bourbon bumper sticker on my guitar case and I can’t wait ’til I can live up to those words, … when you finally make it out to the coast.

  19. Don says:

    would love to take a tour, might even buy a t-shirt. took friday May 14th off to celebrate my birthday (just dont seem right to work on your birthday) called for a tour but was told you were having mechanical problems. will take a rain check.

  20. Judy says:

    Dan, have you ever tasted George T. Stagg bourbon, from Buffalo Trace? That’s the one I’m always hearing about. I’ve never been in the area at a time when I could reserve a bottle. It might be good to include in a bourbon tasting if you’re able to. Will be looking to get a few bottles of your bourbon if or when I’m in the right place to do so. It’s great to see the interest in bourbon in the Lone Star State.

  21. Dan Garrison says:

    Yes, we drink lots of Stagg. Harlen should make more.

  22. Ken Sealey says:

    My wife and I had a wonderful happening yesterday. We were able to visit the cabin, distillery and storage barns. Donnis and J.D. were great host, giving us the grand tour and great conversation about bourbon and the history of Garrison Bros. We were able to have a taste of the “pre-release” and I can’t believe how wonderful your young bourbon is. Even had a taste of the White Dog…wow! memories of some NC “shine” in my younger days. We can hardly wait for the release of your “straight bourbon” this fall. I shall return. I will be a consumer.

  23. Cyndi says:

    Love my t-shirt! Looking forward to getting a taste…

  24. George Donnelly says:

    Please give me a call I want to see if I can be a sales rep. in the D.C. area, Remember I’m Moria and Rick’s friend. thanks
    cell 571-337-1008

  25. Thomas Householder says:

    Just discovered Garrison Brothers bourbon last week. Where have you been….or, rather, where have I been? My wife and I love it and so far I have been able to accumulate 7 bottles of the Spring 2011 release. I have a pretty fair collection of bourbons at my home in Illinois. Can’t wait to take a bottle of your ambrosia north for my friends to try. Also, planning a visit to Hye next month for a “Sit and Sip.”

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