The Texans are causing trouble again.
A liquor store manager at one of the mega-chains recently asked me to stop sending our “salespeople” into his stores. He said they’re asking for Garrison Brothers so often that they just can’t keep it in stock. I replied, “We don’t have any salespeople. Those are called customers. Could you consider stocking more?”
Last week one of our volunteer bottlers told me she had recently visited her local Perry’s Steakhouse and asked if they served Garrison Brothers bourbon. The general manager politely replied, “What is it with that stuff? Everybody keeps asking for it.”
The Texans are definitely causing trouble again.
Because they can often negotiate bulk discounts, most upscale corporate restaurant and hotel chains like Landry’s, Perry’s, Bob’s Steak and Chop House, Sheraton, Darden’s and Flemings maintain “approved corporate liquor lists” and the individual property managers rarely serve liquors that are not on the approved lists.
Nevertheless, Garrison Brothers is showing up behind corporate- and independent-owned bars all across the state. Ruth’s Chris in Fort Worth and Austin. Flemings at The Domain. Smith and Wollensky’s in Houston. Willie Gs in Austin. The legendary bar at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, recently acquired by Hyatt Hotels, will soon be offering Garrison Brothers. The Pappas Family and Landry’s have been particularly good to us serving Garrison Brothers at most of their signature properties. Pappas even offers Garrison Brothers at their restaurants in Texas airports. I’m told it sells very well, especially to foreigners who can’t get Garrison Brothers in their home state.
None of this was supposed to happen. We were supposed to have plenty of bourbon available by now. The Spring 2013 Release of Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey was the second largest release we’ve ever bottled and it was distributed only months after our largest release ever in October 2012. That was supposed to be enough fine bourbon to keep liquor stores stocked for a year. We were even toying with the idea of distributing our bourbon in Colorado and New York.
Needless to say, those plans are now scrapped. Sorry Yankees. Blame the damn Texans.
Things got even weirder this spring at the state capitol in Austin. Bourbon-infused legislators there passed a number of bills that will help our little business. Senate Bill 905 allows us to sell bottles to visitors right here at the distillery. Senate Bill 642 permits us to sell our bourbon in bulk to food processing companies like Blue Bell and Kraft General Foods. Another bill was passed that permits us to sell our bourbon and White Dog to breweries and wineries. We can also now buy beer from them to make all sorts of unique whiskeys.
Again, none of this was supposed to happen. But it has. There is suddenly endless opportunity for our little business.
The problem, of course, is the troublesome Texans. They keep drinking ALL the damn bourbon.
Reinforcements Are On The Way
I’m happy to report that The Fall 2013 Release of Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey is out on the trail now, and by October 1, it will be available at fine liquor stores, bars, hotels and restaurants throughout God’s country.
For 40 days and 40 nights brave volunteers from all over Texas have been hard at work here in Hye, often in despicable, deplorable working conditions, bottling the fall release from Garrison Brothers. The hours are long. The meals are terrible. The women are gorgeous … and tipsy.
The Federated American Unionized Bottler’s Brotherhood of Hye
Working for no pay whatsoever, each volunteer bottler is forced to stand for hours-on-end over a hot Procter-Silex crock-pot bubbling with noxious black wax. The temperature in the bottling room near the steam boilers often soars above 100 degrees. There are frequent skin burns from the wax and the glue that seals the cartons. Cell phones are often lost forever, puttering slowly to the bottom of the hot wax in the crockpot. (And yes, those are waxed bull testicles in the picture to the left.)
Dehumanizing labor conditions like this prompted a number of our volunteers to begin secret discussions at one end of the bottling table about the formation of a union. Clandestine meetings over ice cold beer were held in the barrel barn. The dry, flavorless fajitas served for lunch sent one brave woman named Martha Zeiher over the edge. She indignantly posed atop the bottling table — like Sally Field in Norma Rae — with her UNION sign held Hye and demanded better conditions. The Federated American Unionized Bottler’s Brotherhood of Hye was formed.
When they weren’t bitching (and they never really were; this is a twisted fantasy from my disturbed mind), they were bottling. So far, more than 18,000 bottles of our ambrosia have been filled, corked, pigtailed, waxed, polished, signed and wanger-hangered. (If these terms make no sense to you, come spend some time with us here in Hye bottling bourbon.)
We’ll knock out another 4,000 bottles next week, and then, hopefully, this will be enough bourbon to get the unquenchable Texans through the fall of 2013. If you and your friends would like to reserve a volunteer spot on the Redneck Maquiladora, please send your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. She eventually works everyone in but spots are filled first-come, first-served.
The Fall 2013 Vintage Rides Into Town
We call this new release of our bourbon “Nilla Wafer.” The nose is Nabisco Nilla wafers drizzled in white chocolate with brown sugar sprinkles. An initial taste of apricot cobbler with gingerbread slowly develops into cinnamon-sugared whole-wheat pancakes coated in maple syrup. It has a crisp mouthfeel with a spicy finish of masa harina corn tortillas and cocoa powder.
Drop a large cube of ice in this one (yes, we said that) and we think you’ll enjoy it. As the bourbon opens up with ice or water, it will prove that it is truly non-filtered by becoming cloudy. That cloudiness is the fatty acids from the grain separating. It sweetens the taste and brings out the red winter wheat and Panhandle corn flavor. In fact, if a bottle is left to rest in a cold area, you’ll want to shake the bottle up before opening to disperse the acids. Don’t be alarmed by those clouds. Those clouds prove it’s real, unfiltered straight bourbon. Just give the bottle a shake. No other bourbon packs that much flavor. The bourbon you should be worried about are those that don’t get cloudy. Try that little test at your local watering hole.
We’d appreciate your help quickly getting this bourbon into bars, restaurants, hotels and retail stores. Please ask every bartender and retailer you see “Do you serve Garrison Brothers Bourbon?” I’m trying to visit each personally to tell them thanks but there’s a ton of bars in Texas and I can’t get to them all.
The Cowboy Rides Away
In May we released our first new bourbon. Six hundred bottles of Cowboy Bourbon from Garrison Brothers quietly made their way to liquor stores that wisely placed advance orders from our distributor. After a few strange distribution hiccups, all 600 bottles vanished from stores almost as quickly as they were placed in the glass case. I heard rumors that some retailers were selling The Cowboy for $300, even for a small 375ml bottle. A few bars were selling a 2-ounce pour for $75.
The tasting notes for our Cowboy Bourbon read like this. I think they’re pretty accurate:
Uncut. Unfiltered. Glistening orange, chocolate and crimson colors. Steamy rodeo cowgirl perfume. Velvety brown sugar- and caramel-filled gushers candy. Buttered waffles. Maple syrup, brown sugar, sweet gumbo roux. Warm sweetness overcomes the pain. Finishes long with hints of chocolate, cocoa powder and black licorice.
Enjoy straight up or with just a splash of soda or water but ALWAYS in moderation. Barrel proof (135.9) bourbon can be dangerous for the uninitiated.
The Cowboy was a personal triumph for me. I have received dozens of notes of congratulations from enthusiasts. Since I started making bourbon almost nine years ago, I have always wanted to make a bourbon that was as good or better than Buffalo Trace’s George T. Stagg. I’d be lying if I did not admit that Stagg was the inspiration for our Cowboy Bourbon. I still love my Stagg.
If you’re into the high-end stuff, you should find a bottle of the recently introduced Stagg Junior. This is Buffalo Trace’s master distiller Harlen Wheatley’s latest creation and it is majestic. I was first introduced to it at Sissy’s Southern Kitchen in Dallas, so you might start your search there.
If you’re looking for a bottle of our Cowboy Bourbon, I’m afraid it’s too late. Every retailer I’ve spoken with says they no longer have any. But hold out hope. In 2015 we will release another 5,000 bottles of Cowboy Bourbon. All the barrels used for our Cowboy Bourbon will be a minimum of four years old. Donnis and I have already chosen the barrels. Now it’s just a matter of time in the barrel. And thanks to packaging discounts we’ll be able to secure, when it is re-released, it won’t be nearly as expensive as this inaugural release was.
Garrison Brothers Single Barrel (From Hye, Texas)
But there’s a catch. Liquor stores won’t be selling it. This fall we’re introducing Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey but it will only be available here at the distillery in Hye. We really like showing off what we do. We enjoy educating new friends about what goes into making fine bourbon and we love showing off the ranch. This is the best way we could think of to get you to pay us a visit.
Like our bourbon, each bottle will be truly unique. Our master distiller Donnis Todd will select a new barrel every week. As readers of this newsletter know, barrels leak and there’s always that pesky Angel’s Share (evaporation) problem. So we truly have no idea how many bottles of bourbon each barrel will yield. The problem is exacerbated because when Donnis finds a barrel he really likes, his taste-testing can get out of control. I can’t tell you how many mornings I’ve opened up the barrel barn to find him alone in there asleep on the dirt floor next to a bourbon barrel with the Whiskey Thief laying across his chest.
Each week he’ll draw up his tasting notes for a particular barrel on a chalkboard and we’ll fill a few special bottles that are emblazoned with a silver Texas star with the bourbon from that barrel. We’ll insert corks into the bottles. Visitors to Garrison Brothers can then pick a bottle off the shelf and dip it in the silver wax to personalize their bottle. They can also imprint their college ring or their initials into the wax or write a message on the bottle. Then we’ll gift wrap it, hang a tag on the neck with the buyer’s name, and it’s theirs to take home with them.
We hope to introduce the Single Barrel here in Hye by November 1st. Subscribe to my blog at www.garrisonbros.com and I will keep you posted.
Make Your Own Damn Bourbon (The Barrel Selection Program)
Another project we’re working on is the Barrel Selection Program. This project is designed for individuals or companies who want to give out dozens of bottles of their own personalized bourbon as Christmas gifts.
Barrel buyers who make a deposit with their local liquor store will be able to visit us in Hye and select their own personal barrel from our barns. They can also select the age of the bourbon, the bottling proof, and they can customize the individual bottles with their family’s name or their company’s colors. Buyers can even decide what wax color will be used to seal the bottle.
We will be setting aside just a dozen barrels every year for this program. Each three- or four-year old barrel should yield 45 to 60 bottles of bourbon depending on its age and the evaporation effect of the Angel’s Share. The gift-wrapped bottles will be delivered to the buyer’s local liquor store along with the barrel that was selected.
We hope to announce details about this program at www.garrisonbros.com in the next month. I should warn you: buying your own barrel of bourbon may be expensive.
Bourbon Dinners with Legendary Texas Chefs in Hye and Buffalo Gap
In 2013 we held bourbon pairing dinners with masterful Texas chefs at Hibiscus, Fredericksburg Herb Farm, The Hyatt in The Woodlands, Dallas Athletic Club, Royal Oaks Country Club and Westwood Country Club. Guests at each event were treated to delicious multi-course meals with each course paired with our bourbon. Two such dinners are planned this fall.
The Stillhouse Series Dinner with Chef Robert Del Grande on Saturday, November 2
Legendary Texas Chef Robert Del Grande (RDG + Bar Annie) will be preparing a multi-course dinner and pairing our bourbon vintages along with wines selected by Chris Brundrett at William Chris Vineyards. Dinner will be served in our barrel barn. Proceeds from the dinner benefit the Hye Preservation Society. Tickets and tables can be reserved at http://secure.lenos.com/lenos/signal/StillhouseSeries2013/.
Wine & Whiskey from Highway 290 at Perini Ranch Steakhouse with Becker Vineyards, Garrison Brothers Distillery, and Celebrity Chef Tim Byres from SMOKE on Monday, November 18
Join the gang from Garrison Brothers Distillery, Richard and Bunny Becker from Becker Vineyards, and guest chef Tim Byres from SMOKE at the Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, Texas for an evening of gourmet cuisine, wine and whiskey. For those not familiar with the epicurean center of the universe, Buffalo Gap is just outside Abilene. Proceeds benefit the Buffalo Gap Food and Wine Festival. Reservations for this dinner can be made through Perini Ranch Steakhouse by calling Susan Cannan at (800) 367-1721.
Bourbon 101 Classes
If you are just getting into good bourbon or would like to learn more about the bourbon you’re currently drinking, please come to one of my Bourbon 101 classes. Though I will probably spend way too much time talking about myself and will occasionally go off on a bourbon-induced rant, the classes are fun and educational. We provide light appetizers and share a few hard to find vintages of Garrison Brothers’ bourbon.
- Proper Tasting and Nosing
- The History of America’s Greatest Spirit, before and after Prohibition
- Straight Bourbon versus Brown Vodka
- What is Whiskey?
- Scotch, Irish, Canadian and Japanese Whiskey
- Blended whiskey and Spirit whiskey
- The ABCs of Bourbon Whiskey
- My Story: From Software Marketing Guy to Glorified Moonshiner to Whiskey Peddler
- How We Make Fine Straight Bourbon at Garrison Brothers Distillery
- Understanding Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey Vintages
I currently have classes scheduled in October, November and December in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Humble, Missouri City, San Antonio and Waco.
The class itself lasts about an hour and a half with 30 minutes at the end for questions and gift bottle signings. The classes are held on a Wednesday or Thursday evening from 6 to 8pm. You can sign up for a class or view the class schedule at http://www.garrisonbros.com/garrison-brothers-events. Bring friends and I promise a good time. As always, the whiskey girls who attend get larger samples than the men.
Bourbon Behind Bars
Believe it or not, unless they tell us, we rarely know what bars and restaurants serve Garrison Brothers bourbon. To find out, we launched a Facebook/Instagram promotion this month called BOURBON BEHIND BARS. We are asking you to send us a picture every time you see a bottle of Garrison Brothers behind a bar. At the end of October 2013, the Facebook or Instagram friend who posts the most BOURBON BEHIND BARS sightings wins a private bourbon tasting for them and 24 of their bourbon-swilling friends in their home or at the bar of their choice. One of the finest bourbon drinkers I’ve ever met, Mark Rivera, is currently leading this challenge.
Proprietor Dan Garrison and master distiller Donnis Todd will host the tasting and will provide a wide range of our favorite Garrison Brothers’ bourbons and Kentucky bourbons we like for guests to enjoy.
When you are out on the town, look for Garrison Brothers Bourbon bottles “behind bars” and take a picture of the bartender and the bottle of Garrison Brothers. Send the picture in Instagram with the hashtags #garrisonbros #bourbonbehindbars. Personally, I have no idea what this all means but savvy tech people assure me there are people out there who do. Please give us the name of the bartender and tag the bar in your photo so we can tell them thanks. That’s all ya gotta do to enter. You can learn more at: http://www.garrisonbros.com/bourbon-behind-bars.
Raising A Glass to Texans
“The first time you buy a bottle of Garrison Brothers, it seems outrageously expensive. Then you’ll buy two.”
I really believe that’s true. I know our bourbon is getting older with each new release. I also think our bourbon is getting better with every release.
With all this bullshit about “Texans causing trouble” you might think we don’t appreciate those of you who buy and enjoy our bourbon. Believe me, we do. From the bottoms of our hearts, thank you from all of us here in Hye. We truly appreciate your support. Salud!
Sharing and Enjoying Our Ambrosia
We want you to try Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey. To that end, Donnis and I will be loading up our pick-ups with cases of bourbon and canvassing Texas this fall visiting with folks at liquor stores, bars and restaurants.
If you happen to be buying a bottle as a gift for someone special, please come see us so we can write a personal note on the back of the bottle. The Tasting and Bottle Signing schedule is posted on our website and is also available here. Please come visit with us.
Back at the Ranch
If you can’t find Garrison Brothers at a bar or store near your home, you can always come drink with us in Hye. You can smell and taste the corn cooking; walk through the fermentation rooms; nose and taste the “White Dog”; sample a little bourbon from one of our experimental releases; and ask all the questions you want. Trail bosses Stephanie and Chris will make you feel right at home.
We offer tours and tastings Wednesday through Sunday at 10, noon, 2 and 4. Reservations can be made here: http://www.garrisonbros.com.
If you really want to get doused in Garrison Brothers, consider joining The Old 300. If you do, you’ll know more about fine bourbon whiskey than anyone in Texas and you’ll have a great time learning.
Finally, you don’t have to come all the way to Hye to pick up some Garrison Brothers gear. We’ve launched Garrison Brothers’ Dry Goods Store. There you’ll find t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers and cool bourbon shit.
Vaya con Dios. Have a great fall.
Proprietor and Distiller