Cinch Up Your Saddle. Time to Ride.
In two weeks, on Texas Independence Day (that’s March 2nd for the foreign readers), we’ll be introducing the Spring 2012 Release of Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
I think it’s our best bourbon yet. But more on the bourbon later, I want to talk about family.
The Kids and Volunteers
A Family Business
If you’ve read this newsletter before, you know that Garrison Brothers Distillery is a family business. We’re proud of that. The business is owned by my wife and I, my brother, and about nine of our friends and drinking buddies. They so strongly believed in the business and the bourbon that they invested their savings to make it happen. Those are good friends.
But remaining independent is just the beginning of what we mean when we talk about family. Our mission — lifted directly from the business plan – is: To create, build and sustain a profitable, family-operated bourbon whiskey distillery that makes the best tasting and highest quality bourbon whiskey ever made, and in turn, supports and nourishes our families, the families of those who work with us, and the community in which we operate.
When they aren’t in school or involved in sports, my kids and my wife help out here in Hye – pouring samples for guests, organizing special events, bottling bourbon and helping with chores. I am a proud Papa on those days. Behind the scenes, my wife runs our board of directors, monitors the finances (to be sure), and is never too timid to point out when I lose sight of the mission. I am lucky to have her. She tells me so every day.
A Family Business
But the family extends beyond my family. It includes the families of our staff. Not a day goes by when I don’t see this sensational man named Kevin at the distillery. Kevin doesn’t work for us, but his wife does. Yet, day in and day out, there’s Kevin — hauling barrels, unloading boxes, taking out trash.
The same is true about our distillery director’s son Calvin. When he’s not in school, he’s at the stillhouse, because his dad never leaves and the two of them are inseparable. Calvin knows so much about bourbon, he could give a distinguished speaker lecture series at the University of Kentucky. Our bottling manager is Laurel, whose husband Randy can fix anything with a pocket knife. He shows up almost every week and jumps right in.
Members of our ambassador association, The Old 300, are also a big part of the family. They know that when they visit us for Bourbon Camp, there will be hard work along with the hard play. And when they’re not visiting us in Hye, they’re out promoting our bourbon where they live. I get emails from them daily telling me about a great bourbon bar that I need to visit. Sure it’s tough work, but someone’s got to do it.
Finally, I have to recognize the amazing volunteers who help us bottle this bourbon. This group consists of fathers and sons, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, Harley biker club members, foodies, wayward bourbon connoisseurs, bloggers, and an occasional stripper (those who were here know exactly who I’m talking about). These crazy, wonderful people are family too.
All these folks recognize that we can’t afford to pay them but we would if we could. They believe that one day we will make it up to them. And one day, we will.
We don’t mass produce. We don’t artificially color. We don’t spend millions on branding. We make it like it should be made and we tell it like it should be told. The family believes in what we’re doing and it takes an enormous family to make it happen.
So, if there’s a theme to this post, family is it. We love this family. They’re strange as hell; they are immensely talented and intensely dedicated, and we look out for each other. Don’t Mess with This Texas Family!
The Spring 2012 Release of Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey
A New Bourbon is Born
Prepare for something a little different with the Spring 2012 release. There is a noticeable change from our previous bourbons in this beautiful brown liquor. First off, this is the first bourbon we’ve made exclusively using organic #1 gourmet grade white corn from the Texas Panhandle. All previous releases have been organic yellow dent corn. Additionally, this bourbon was made primarily with organic soft red winter wheat we harvested from our farm in 2009.
The bourbon was distilled and entered into barrels that same year and has been under careful watch in our barrel barns for almost three years. Every drop was distilled by me, Donnis, Fred or JD on The Copper Cowgirl. Every barrel used in this release was custom-made for Garrison Brothers.
As always will be the case with Garrison Brothers’ bourbons, it is not chill-filtered. Doing so is an unforgiveable sin, because it removes the fatty acids from the grain and the wood, which are an important aspect of the flavor. As a result, if you leave this bourbon sitting for a long time, especially in a cold area, you may eventually see cloudiness and solids resting in the bottom of the bottle. Connoisseurs, who know great bourbons like George T. Stagg, will recognize that this is to be expected from an authentic bourbon whiskey, made the way bourbon was made – before the technology and marketing geeks brought us chill-filtration. If it clouds up, just shake it, pour and enjoy responsibly.
Bourbon in Barrels Dumping Barrels Bourbon Rain
The result is pretty damn special. This one has a smoky butterscotch and maple syrup nose, caramelized brown sugar sweetness on the tongue, and unlike the Fall 2011 Release, a crisp and delicate finish. Our distillery director Donnis Todd says it reminds him of toasted marshmallows. I get that, but I’m reminded of the buttery cinnamon toast my mom used to make for breakfast when we were kids. She used real butter.
We selected 134 barrels from our barns for this release. The brutally hot summers these past two years took their toll and the Angel’s certainly got their Share. The release is small by liquor industry standards at just 7,026 bottles. As always, I signed and numbered every bottle. As is our custom, we skipped bottle #666, so one case will have two #665s.
Bottled By Texans, Proud Texans
Once again, wonderful Texans – and members of the family – drove in from all over the state to help us bottle this bourbon. We had more than 100 guests in all, from Clear Lake, Cedar Park, Dallas, El Paso, Fredericksburg, Houston, Lubbock, San Antonio, The Woodlands and many wonderful small Texas towns. We sincerely appreciate those of you who helped out. We are indebted and hope you’ll come home again soon.
We were in for a treat the first two days. Chuck Cowdery, the author of Bourbon, Straight, came down from Chicago to pay a visit. Chuck knows more about the makers and the history of Kentucky bourbon than any man I’ve ever met and shared his deep knowledge while he was here. We also put him to work. My respect for the Kentucky boys grows daily. Buy his book!
If you wanted to help bottle and did not get the call, please accept our apologies. We currently have a waiting list with more than 600 names on it. We’d invite everybody down, if we could, but it just wouldn’t be safe to have more people in the stillhouse. We are working in those who have been on the list the longest first, I promise.
Bourbon Bound for The Bayou City
So, here’s what many of you have been waiting to hear: Much of this release is headed to Houston, just in time for the Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Houston is a bit of a homecoming for me. I spent my teenage years there. My fondest memories are of the Bunker Hill area where I played football at Spring Branch Junior High and spent one year at Memorial High. Not paying attention, I had my first car wreck on Westheimer. I got in my first fight in the Memorial City parking lot, and lost. My first girlfriend went to St. Cecelia’s Catholic School. She taught me how to kiss and some other cool stuff.
So, yeah, I’m looking forward to Houston. When I wasn’t distilling or bottling in Hye this February and March, I’ve been living out of a Motel 6 there while meeting with bar, restaurant and hotel managers. Clearly, Houston is a straight bourbon town. The reception at fine on-premise establishments has been amazing.
Here’s just a partial list of award winning and amazing restaurants, hotels and bars that will be featuring Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey behind their bar. I hope you’ll pay them a visit and tell them I sent you.
- III Forks
- Benjy’s on Washington
- Benjy’s on Dunstan
- Branch Water Tavern
- Brasserie 19
- Brennan’s of Houston
- Brenner’s On The Bayou
- Cullen’s Upscale American Grill
- Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse (Galleria)
- Downing Street
- Hotel Zaza
- Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
- Prohibition (Galleria)
- Poison Girl
- RDG & Bar Annie
- Reserve 101
- Royal Oak
- Ruth’s Chris
- Vic & Anthony’s
In addition, the Spring 2012 Release of Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey will most likely be available at these fine liquor stores. I recommend calling first to make sure they have some in stock.
- CostCo Liquor Stores
- Fiesta Liquor Stores
- Heights Liquor
- Houston Wine Merchant
- International Champions
- Richards Fine Wine and Spirits
- All Specs stores
- PG Liquor
- Tony Ks
A few hundred cases of this release will also be shipped to the fine liquor stores in Austin and San Antonio, and all points in between, who sell Garrison Brothers. As soon as we know which stores reorder, we will post that information here. Sincerest thanks to those stores who have made our bourbon available to your customers. We truly appreciate your support.
Houston, Let’s Share Some Bourbon!
Since we hate to see anyone drink alone, the Garrison Brothers gang and I will be hosting a few events in The Bayou City over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come out and share a glass with us. If you’ve never tried my bourbon before, I’m buying.
- February 24 from 5 to 8 Gift Bottle Signing at Specs on West Highway 290 in Austin (open to all)
- February 28 at 6:30 – Bullshitting about Bourbon at Reserve 101 (tickets on sale now at www.Reserve101.com)
- March 1 at 6:00 – Meet The Maker at Poison Girl (open to all)
- March 2 from 5 to 8 – Gift Bottle Signing at Specs on Smith Street (open to all)
- March 7 at 5:30 – Bullshitting about Bourbon at The Coronado Club (private event)
- March 24 from noon to 3 – Gift Bottle Signing at Costco on Bunker Hill (open to all)
- March 27 at 6:30 – Guest Lecture, Whiskey 101 Class at Rice University (private event)
- April 14 from 2 to 4 – Gift Bottle Signing at The Houston Wine Merchant (open to all)
What’s Happening at Home in Hye
Our original Alembic copper pot still, The Copper Cowgirl, is back in action after a long overdue vacation during bottling. We are taking down our fancy, non-automated bottling table and putting her back in operation.
Hye Rye™ from Garrison Brothers
This spring and summer, Donnis and I will begin recipe development for a future release of our first rye-based bourbon, Hye Rye™, which will be distilled from The Cowgirl. Fans of rye bourbon whiskeys shouldn’t get too excited though. In the bourbon business, research and development is planned in terms of decades. Test recipes we begin aging in oak barrels this summer won’t be tasted until Christmas, and we won’t start production until 2013. Since this will be a straight rye bourbon, it probably won’t touch glass until 2016.
Cowboy Bourbon™ from Garrison Brothers
We’re also working on a special limited release of our Cowboy Bourbon™ that will be introduced this winter. I have set aside the finest twelve barrels we’ve ever produced for this release. I am planning to bottle this bourbon when the barrels are four years old. It will be uncut, completely unfiltered and bottled at barrel proof. I anticipate these bottle will be up around 135 proof. But you won’t believe how smooth and rich this bourbon is.
This limited release will only be available at fine liquor stores in the Hill Country near the distillery. Those of you who like this kind of high-end stuff may need to consider a road trip.
Welcome Stephanie Whitworth and JD Anderson to The Family!
If you’ve visited us here in Hye, these beautiful people are already familiar faces.
J.D. Anderson joined us part-time in 2009 as The Mash Man. His former job as a part-time gigolo and exotic dancer just wasn’t paying the rent. Hell, look at him. We were sympathetic and took him under our wing. Today, J.D. runs our entire kitchen and will soon start distilling again. Starting before the sun comes up and finishing well after dark, he grinds grain, fills tanks, spit-shines kettles and makes the finest tasting distillers’ beer in the country. He’d probably want me to tell you he’s single, available and a Leo, but since it ain’t true, I won’t go there.
Stephanie Whitworth joined us as our Hospitality Manager in December 2010. As soon as she did, the entire operation became much more sunny, attractive, and efficient. When she’s not screaming at the rest of us, she’s smiling and leading tours, and she really knows her shit. I truly believe Stephanie knows more about fine bourbon whiskey than any woman in Texas. Generally, wherever she goes, she can make anyone feel relaxed, welcome and at home. She, too, is unavailable. And don’t even think about, because if you were to, her husband Kevin and the rest of us would kick your ass.
A Hill Country Ranch That Makes Fine Bourbon Whiskey
Wish You Were Here
It’ll still be a few years before we’ll have enough aged bourbon to start selling statewide and it’s likely this release will sell out quickly.
But remember, if you can’t find Garrison Brothers near your home, you can always come share bourbon with us in Hye. We conduct tours and tastings Wednesday through Sunday at 10, noon, 2 and 4. Stephanie will make you feel at home. This ain’t a wine tour though. We don’t have a “tasting room.” We don’t offer artisan cheeses. And we don’t sell candles or lace doilies.
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 releases; and ask all the questions you want. No need to call ahead; we can always make room for a few more.
Making Bourbon This Good is Expensive!
To alleviate some of the pain, we’ve launched Garrison Brothers’ Dry Goods Store. You’ll find t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers and cool bourbon shit there.
If you really want to get doused in Garrison Brothers, consider joining The Old 300. If you do, you’ll soon know more about fine bourbon whiskey than anyone else in Texas and you’ll have a great time learning.
Vaya con Dios. We’ll check back in with ya’ll in the fall.
Proprietor and Distiller
P.S. Please join the Garrison Brothers Gang in Luckenbach for Billie Joe Shaver on Saturday, April 7. As is my custom, I will be in a bourbon-and religion-fueled hypnotic trance during the show, but I look forward to visiting with y’all before and after.