At Garrison Brothers, we are single-mindedly dedicated to making fine bourbon. Bourbon is all we will ever make, and it is our mission to study the craft and get better every day. We consider our stillhouse and barrel barns hallowed ground.
Bourbon-making is governed and protected by strict standards of identity. It must be distilled at below 160 proof; it must be made from 51% corn; it must mature in new white American oak barrels; and it must be barreled below 125 proof.
These industry-mandated regulations mean bourbon is the most expensive and time consuming spirit one can make. At Garrison Brothers, we consider making bourbon the Holy Grail of artisan distilling. We believe our bourbon is the ultimate ambrosia.
Artisan Distilling versus Industrial Distilling
Small distilleries like ours have been labeled artisan or craft distilleries. We’re far different from the industrial whiskey factories in the east. Each year we produce just a few hundred barrels, each with its own distinct personality. We make every barrel and every bottle by hand. If we had to automate our procedures, we’d end up making the same bourbon every day. Where’s the fun in that?
Vintage Agricultural Products
Bourbon’s raw materials are grain, water and wood. It may seem odd to think of bourbon as an agricultural product, but that’s exactly what it is. We work with organic farms in Texas who grow harvest corn and provide it to us fresh. The grain is different from year to year due to agricultural factors: rainfall, temperature fluctuations, farming techniques and soil quality.
Additionally, our bourbon barrels are made with white American oak harvested from trees grown on tree farms. We do not use whiskey wood; we use wine wood because these barrels yield more flavor. The same climate issues affect the harvest of American oak from the sustainable forests where we get our wood.
The bourbon we produce each year is truly “vintage” bourbon. Year to year, we will change aspects of our recipes, our production methods, our mash bill, and our barreling strategy. Indeed, the bourbon we’re making in 2015 will be far different and far superior to the vintage we made in 2009.
An Epicurean Attitude
In producing bourbon, an artisan distiller can alter his mash bill (grain choices); use different types of filtered or unfiltered water; vary his cook procedures, cook temperatures and cooling processes; he can “hot distill” or “cold distill” by adjusting the temperature and flow rate of the condenser water; he can adjust reflux, which alters the proof, and chemical make-up of the white dog; he can work with a cooperage to custom create barrels that will greatly affect how his bourbon matures; he can also select from a wide variety of yeast strains, each with their own personality.
Barrel aging is the least understood but sexiest part of making good bourbon. We can adjust the proof of the white dog before we enter it into a barrel. When the barreling proof is lower, we find that greater oxidation occurs inside the barrel and the air inside marries into the spirit. The esters, acids, and aldehydes combine to yield a fruitier, more floral bourbon.
Head space within the barrel is a significant factor in the bourbon’s flavor or taste. If we fill a barrel just half full, it seems to accelerate maturation. Aromas of molasses, caramel, butterscotch, and maple syrup, along with spices like cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and anise, appear earlier, sometimes overpowering the smoke and wood essences.
With more than five thousand barrels aging in our barn, we have made a host of discoveries that will make each of our bourbon whiskies different from anything currently available.
The Garrison Brothers Family of Vintage Bourbons
Every day we make better bourbon than we did the day before. As a result, bourbon drinkers who buy our bourbon can expect a better bottle every time they buy one. Each vintage will have its own profile and its own distinct personality. We’re not that concerned about consistency. Frankly, consistency is boring.
One trait that runs throughout our family of bourbons is color. Typically, bourbons have a light straw color with hints of amber and brown. Our bourbons are dark, like the amber-crimson tint of a Texas sunset. Our bourbons are darker and richer than any almost any other bourbon on the market today.
Don’t be put off by age statements! In cold climates, maturation -- the distillate cycling in and out of the wood -- effectively ceases. We don’t have that problem in Texas. We have a saying down here: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a little while.” Indeed, on a typical winter day in Hye, the morning temperature can be thirty degrees and the temperature that same afternoon can be eighty. 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.
We like to think of our bourbons as a family. Each member of the family has its own personality. In our case, the father figure -- our flagship -- is our Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Signature 2008 Vintage. This limited release was first introduced in the fall of 2010. Since then, we have released a half dozen or so new vintages, and every bottle has disappeared from Texas liquor store shelves. We want to tell you more about our Flagship…
But first, we want to introduce you to The Young Gun.