Happy Texas Independence Day from Hye!
With the news of late from Wall Street and Washington, “happy” is not a word we’re accustomed to hearing. But we’re pretty darn happy in Hye. Maybe it’s that nostalgic feeling that comes over me every March 2nd. Maybe it’s the warmer weather. Maybe it’s because we’re producing 12 barrels a week and now have 175 barrels of the finest bourbon ever made aging in our barn.
Whatever it is, it’s working.
Bourbon from Texas? Cheers.
In November ’08, we sent out a little announcement that we’d filled our 100th barrel. Apparently, some folks were as excited as I was. We got calls from all over. We were on the radio in Amarillo, Austin, Kerrville, San Antonio, and statewide across the Texas State Radio Network. There were newspaper stories in Austin, Bremond, Coleman, Dallas and Fort Worth. We even made the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Kentucky (they seemed a little upset about something).
But best of all, hundreds of visitors came out to see our little distillery.
The nicest story came from Austin. Patrick Beach of the Austin American-Statesman spent an entire day at the distillery. We put his butt to work too. He was filling barrels and hammering bungs even while taking pages of notes. But he didn’t hold a grudge. He went back to the office and wrote a story that made us all real proud. We’ve put Patrick’s story along with others on our website at www.garrisonbros.com.
Introducing The Old 300™
One of the unexpected outcomes from the publicity is that everyone wants to buy one of our bourbon barrels. By law, of course, we can’t sell full ones. But we’ve been offered (and have accepted) outrageous amounts for the empties. We were also besieged with emails from people who wanted to come learn how good bourbon is made. Plus, I’ve always had this wild idea about annually convening a tasting panel of Texans at the distillery who would be the first people in the world to taste our bourbon. (Unfortunately, Texas liquor laws prohibit that too.)
At long last, all these ideas have come together in a membership program we’re calling The Old 300™. Named after the first 300 families to homestead in Texas, The Old 300™ is our bourbon education, appreciation and ambassador association, and is your chance to help shape the future of a truly remarkable bourbon. Not only will The Old 300 members be invited to visit our distillery and hand-select their own personal barrel, they’ll also receive an extensive education on making and enjoying bourbon. Members will learn everything they ever wanted to know about American whiskey, including those made in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Benefits and privileges include:
- Participation in Bourbon Camp in Hye — Members are invited to spend a weekend at Garrison Brothers’ Distillery for an insider’s look at the making and enjoyment of fine bourbon.
- Members Will Make Their Own Bourbon — Participants will handcraft Garrison Brothers’ Bourbon with help from me, our bourbon makers, cooks, and distillers.
- An Authentic Garrison Brothers American Oak Barrel — Old 300 members will hand-select one of Garrison Brothers’ first 500 barrels during their visit. Years later — after their barrel is emptied and the amber bourbon is bottled — we will inform the member where the bourbon can be purchased. (It is illegal in Texas for a manufacturer to sell or provide bourbon directly to a consumer.) We will then varnish the barrel, make necessary repairs, line the inside with a spirits-safe liner, mount a spigot, and affix a brass plaque with the member’s name and The Old 300™ number, and then ship the finished barrel to the member’s home.
Once members of The Old 300™ better understand how Garrison Brothers™ is made, they will become our ambassadors, helping us spread the word about our bourbon. Additional membership privileges include:
- Advance invitations to private bourbon tastings and bourbon dinners at the finest steakhouses and restaurants in Texas
- A custom, one-of-a-kind, glass-framed plaque recognizing membership in The Old 300™
- Family and guest distillery visitation privileges
- A semi-annual newsletter from the distillery with confidential information about special bottling release dates and special vintages
- Advance notice and opportunity to purchase tickets to concerts and events at the distillery
- Recognition at Garrison Brothers™ Distillery: the names, membership terms, and membership numbers of The Old 300™ will be engraved on a permanent plaque
Membership is not cheap and it shouldn’t be. Membership is for five years and only 300 members will be accepted. Those interested in joining The Old 300™ can find more information at www.garrisonbros.com or pick up an application at the distillery in Hye.
If you choose to join, you’ll play a significant role in helping us make Texas history and you’ll have a keepsake that damn-sure verifies you were part of it.
How’s Our Bourbon Coming Along?
We make our bourbon one batch at a time and one barrel at a time. As it comes off the still, we’re taking just one gallon at a time and testing the quality. If it meets our criteria, it goes into a barrel for maturation. As it matures, the bourbon tries to escape the barrel, soaking deep into the wood on hot Texas afternoons. When it does, it mingles with the sweet chemical compounds (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 in the cold but takes these flavors along with it.
With temperatures in the 40s in the morning and the 80s in the afternoon, the bourbon has matured remarkably well this winter. I’ve tasted samples from Hye against quite a few from Kentucky and Tennessee, and I can honestly say I’ve never tasted anything smoother, richer or more delicious than ours.
Making Bourbon This Good is Expensive!
Every month we’re cooking 15,000 pounds of the most expensive #1 organic yellow dent corn in the world and we’re filling 50 new White American Oak barrels. So, yeah, we’re burning through some cash.
We’d like your help to offset some of these expenses. We’ve launched Garrison Brothers’ Dry Goods Store at www.garrisonbros.com 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, you can also join The Old 300 there. We’d truly appreciate anything you can do.
When Can I Get A Bottle?
Believe me when I tell you no one wants to sell a bottle more than I do. The bourbon that is aging in our barns is getting better every day it remains there. Complexity and character come quick around here. I visit the barn once a week and take samples, and I’m not convinced we’re ready yet. We’re going to give our bourbon all the time it needs to become truly spectacular.
We’re hopeful the first bottles will be shipped in 2011. As soon as the bottled bourbon leaves our distillery, we’ll let members of The Old 300™ know where they can buy a bottle and they’ll spread the word. The whiskey will be worth the wait!
Anyone is welcome to come by the distillery. However, since we work our tails off and always have construction projects underway, we ask that you call first so we won’t disrupt production. Also, in exchange for the tour, know in advance that we’re going to ask you to buy a t-shirt! Have a happy Texas Independence Day and a great spring and summer. We’ll send another note in the fall.
Proprietor and Distiller
P.S. A bill is on its way through the Texas Legislature that will permit distillers like us to give small samples to visitors! Darn right it’s ours. Please ask your senator or representative to support House Bill 1974. You can visit http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/ to find out who represents you.