Texas Bourbon News, Spring 2018

Madder Than A Wet Hen

Two recent actions have me concerned. The first is one of our state leaders is spending millions on television advertising, even during the Super Bowl, touting himself as a “principled conservative” and a good friend of President Donald Trump. Why would a virtually unopposed candidate spend millions of dollars to tout his conservative nature and his relationship to the big guy? Hardly seems like conservative spending. For that matter, who paid for these television ads? Learn more here: Small beer makers say bill creates “extortion fee” as they seek Abbott’s veto 

Another example of the “unusual” happening in our state appeared in the February 17, 2018 Austin American-Statesman. This one came in an opinion-editorial piece from a gentleman named Rick Donley. The headline: Texas Alcoholic Beverage Laws are Complex for Good Reason! 

The writer claims that “The Texas Three-Tier system has flourished precisely because it has provided a safe, fair, orderly and predictable market for the alcoholic beverage industry, while making numerous accommodations to the craft industry.”

Who is Rick Donley and why would Rick Donley not want anyone to screw with the TABC code? Rick Donley represents a trade association called the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas (WBDT).

This is the same organization that flexed their muscle during the 2017 legislative session by passing a bill that made craft breweries that engage in direct sales of their products to customers pay their distributor a service fee — even if the beer distributor never took possession of the beer and played no part whatsoever in the sale of that beer to the customer. This is also known as extortion.

Check out who the WBDT’s sponsors are. And keep in mind that Budweiser views any beverage as competition. Interesting timing too since the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is right in the middle of Sunset Commission hearings.

And by the way, here are a few recent stories about how healthy the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and its rules are:

Power Tends to Corrupt, and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.

  • Sir John Dalberg-Acton

Good Bourbon Is Going to Change the World!

Those of us who drink good bourbon already know it is the nectar of the Gods. But I truly believe good bourbon can and will change the world. Good bourbon enriches friendships. Good bourbon strengthens one’s faith in man and God. Good bourbon is the fuel for the creation of legendary stories.

I see it every morning at our distillery when we start bottling bourbon. Twenty-five fresh-faced volunteers are standing around the bottling room nervously eyeing their suspicious looking coworkers and the bottles on the bottling line. They are shy and a little awkward. Around 9 a.m., we start work and we raise a quality control sample together. And then another around ten, and so on, and so on. By two in the afternoon, we are dancing, singing, hugging and telling stories about our families. By the time the volunteers leave that afternoon, (and they leave sober because we stop serving samples at 2) they’ve made two dozen new friends. They say, “let’s all get together and do it again next year.” They trade email addresses and phone numbers and hug each other as they depart, most making plans to have dinner together in town.

I’ve seen good bourbon reinforce one’s faith in man and God. There’s a lovely blonde woman about my age who joins me at the end of the bottling line frequently. She polishes bottles while I sign them. Her 6 foot 5 inch American-hero-marine-husband recently completed his fourth tour of Afghanistan and was on the front line during each tour. We raised a glass to her, and to him, and all of us had tears in our eyes. Her husband made it home safely. I know because she brought him out to meet us and he gave me a bear hug that just about broke my back.

Bourbon sure as hell creates legendary stories! In 2014, my friends Linda and Bob Voss mounted Bob’s Harley Davidson with bottles of Garrison Brothers in the saddlebags and set off to Barrow, Alaska, Pike’s Peak and then to Key West, Florida. They wanted to be the first couple in history to drink good bourbon at the northernmost, southernmost and highest points in America. They did it and sent me the pictures to prove it.

And how about our own Donnis Todd? This crazy, heavily bearded, totally tattoo’d, frightening beast of a man shows up on my doorstep in Hye in March of 2008 riding a Harley with bullet holes in the gas tank. He has no money and no clothes on his back and has an eight-year old son in tow.

Dan:     “Who are you and what are you doing in my stillhouse?”
Donnis: “My name’s Donnis Todd and I want to make bourbon whiskey.”
Dan:     “Well you can’t do it here. I don’t have any money and I can’t pay you.”
Donnis: “Well, you better figure something out cause I ain’t leaving.”

Today, Donnis Todd makes the finest tasting, highest quality bourbon whiskey in the world and is one of the most respected young distillers in America. I could not be more fortunate than to have that amazing man on my team.

This year at Garrison Brothers we are going to tell some great stories and our bourbon is going to create some great stories. Pull up a rocker, a barrel, a bottle and a glass or your YETI. Let’s create some stories together. Shall we?

About the Bourbon in Your Bottle

If you visited liquor stores last year to find a bottle of the 2017 Vintage of Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon and were successful, then you are truly holding onto a collectors’ item. Why? Because we never bottled a 2017 Vintage.

Due to glass bottle production delays from our manufacturer, we decided to just skip the 2017 Vintage altogether. Thankfully, our distributors had enough inventory in their warehouses that we did not run out altogether. Remarkably, as of this writing, only 100 cases of the 2016 Vintage Small Batch Bourbon remain on planet earth. If you are a collector and don’t have one, you better get out there and find one quickly because — thanks to you crazy Garrison Brothers drinkers — we are depleting almost 350 cases a month from our distributors’ warehouses. In other words — like Brittney Spears virginity — the 2016 Vintage of Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon will soon be extinct. And when it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

Good news is on the horizon though. As we speak, twenty-five hardworking semi-insane people from all over the country are bottling up the 2018 Vintage of Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon. And this one’s a doozy.

Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon (2018 Vintage)

First, let’s talk about age. The maturity of whiskey normally refers to the number of years the whiskey remained inside an oak cask. That can be an important contributor to the taste or quality of the whiskey. But that only really applies if you are talking about Scotch Whisky, Irish whisky or Single Malts. You will rarely hear a bourbon distiller bragging about the age of his or her bourbon because age or maturity is a secondary concern to the mash bill or the climate in which the bourbon barrel matures.

Scotch whiskey is commonly aged in previously used bourbon or sherry casks. During the Olympics, an Irish Whiskey called Jameson was advertising that their whiskey is aged in IPA (beer) casks. The makers of these lesser whiskies MUST mature their whisky much longer than bourbon in order for the whiskey to exhibit unusual flavors.

Why? Because most of the liquid sap from the original white American oak tree from which the casks were made has already been sucked from the cask. The bourbon does that. When bourbon gets hot inside a barrel it expands and leaches to the sap in the pores of the wood. When the bourbon then cools down, it extracts the sap from the wood and the sugars in the sap become one and the same with the bourbon liquid.

The best example of this phenomenon comes from a recent experiment we accidentally conducted with the Salt Lick Barbecue. Unbeknownst to us, Scott Roberts at The Salt Lick bought a few dozen USED bourbon barrels from us and filled them with his company’s barbecue sauce. Keep in mind that these barrels had already been filled with bourbon and were then drained. Scott’s barbecue sauce got hot inside the barrel and expanded, forcing its way into the crevices in the wood. When the sauce cooled, it shrank and came back out of the wood taking along with it the trace amounts of bourbon that had been lost to the wood. The resulting barbecue sauce was delicious AND was 10% alcohol by volume.

With our 2018 Vintage of Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, we have reached a significant milestone. Every barrel selected for the vintage was four years old or older. As a result, the law no longer requires us to include an age statement on the bottle.  Our bourbon is now older than many Kentucky bourbons on the market. Try a taste test versus your Kentucky favorite.

2018 Vintage Specifications

  • The largest release in our history totaling more than 60,000 750 ml bottles.
  • 498 barrels were dumped to create this vintage.
  • Every barrel was originally filled with 27 gallons of White Dog.
  • The White Dog entered the barrels more than four years ago (2013) at 114 proof.
  • The youngest barrel included was four years and 38 days old.
  • After aging, the bourbon had an average cask strength of 115.7 proof.

The Bourbon Takeover of Texas

To celebrate with you, we’ve been collaborating with renowned Texas culinary experts as part of what we’re calling the Bourbon Takeover of Texas. This one-night-only event will take place at choice restaurants in Texas’s largest cities: Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio. Each chef has been tasked with creating a dish (or cocktail) reflecting their restaurant concept and encapsulating the bold, proud spirit of Texas. Participating eateries, cocktail bars, chefs and mixologists include the following:

We wanted the finest Texas talent to showcase the versatility of our finest release yet. I’m excited to see and taste their Texas Independence Day creations.

The Handcrafted Experimental Collection

(from the Voodoo Kitchen of master distiller Donnis Todd)


In West Texas, about 40 miles south of Pecos, there’s a little swimming hole where I took my kids when they were little. The springs were known as Mescalero Springs, for the Mescalero Apache who watered their horses here. In 1934, president Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) to create jobs for Americans following The Great Depression and Prohibition. The Corps arrived here in July 1934. They built barracks, a mess hall and a kitchen to support 130 to 200 men and their supervisors.

The park’s name comes from four men’s surnames:  E.D. Balcom, H.R. Morrow, Joe Rhea and John Rhea. These men formed an irrigation company in the area in the early 20th century. Hence the name Bal-mor-hea.

About the Bourbon with the Spiritual Name

In 2012, Donnis filled 22 barrels with fresh 114 proof white dog. These barrels came from The Barrel Mill, a cooperage in Minnesota. In October of 2015, Donnis lugged these barrels in from the barns and dumped the liquid within into stainless steel tanks. He then rolled a few 27-gallon Kelvin Cooperage barrels below the tank spigot and filled the barrels with the already-two-year old straight bourbon. This second round of barrels had far different lignin and chemical compositions than the original barrels because they had been scorched and toasted differently, thus caramelizing the sugars in a wonderful new way. (I can’t explain more or I’d have to bury you in a field.)

In 2017, we transferred these barrels back to The Stillhouse. The bourbon was dumped into a long thin stainless steel trough we call The Whiskey Girl and we all began nosing and tasting the results. After a round of tear-filled high fives and brotherly hugs, we started talking about names and bottle design, the easy part of getting this sensational liquid to market.

Encased in a 375ml Boot Flask bottle with a Balmorhea blue label and silver wax, the Balmorhea barrels yielded just a few thousand bottles. These little babies went on sale at our gift shop on Friday, October 20, 2017 and were immensely popular. In May, 8,100 more bottles will be distributed to liquor stores and bars all across Texas.

Release specifications:

  • Aged two years in white American oak
  • Aged another two years in a second new white American oak barrel
  • Proof: 115 PROOF (57.5%ALC/VOL)
  • Original release date: October 20, 2017
  • 8,100 375 ml bottles with an anticipated retail price of $69.99

Master Distiller’s Tasting Notes:

Bourbon candy. Frozen Popsicle fudgsicle bars, amaretto coffee with cream, sticky buns and pecan brittle. Thick white chocolate syrup.

Adult Swim

To celebrate the release of Balmorhea, we’re working with Texas Parks and Wildlife to host Texas’ largest swim party ever this summer at Balmorhea State Park. Proceeds from the event will go toward park restoration. Wouldn’t you just know that we picked the year for this release and this launch event that Texas Parks and Wildlife decided to undertake the first park restoration since it was built 85 years ago.

As a result, Adult Swim may be moved elsewhere. Next week I’m taking a West Texas scouting trip to see if … the road goes on forever and the party never ends. More to come on Adult Swim soon. Stay posted.

People You Need to Meet

Hope Parkerson is madly in love with a handsome, debonair man who is named Dan…wait for it, wait for it…Parkerson. Yeah that’s her husband. He’s a bad ass too. But when she’s not with him she has to put up with my crotchety, temperamental, ornery, grouchy, wise-ass bullshit. Yeah, she’s my assistant.

If I tell you I will meet you somewhere at such and such time, and I actually show up at the appointed time, it is because Hope told me where to go. She packs up all my on-the-road-again bourbon shit, pays my speeding tickets, bails me out of jail, makes my dentist appointments, laughs at my horrible jokes, cleans up after me when I slobber, and generally pretends to like me. She doesn’t, of course, but she’s great at faking it.

Dan Parkerson told me that last part. Love you Hope!

Marriott Hotels

Please ask for your favorite Vintage of Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon and Single Barrel at Marriott Hotels when you travel. Because demand has been heavy, Marriott just moved our bourbon from their “optional” list to their “recommended” list. So, if you’re looking for a place to go drink, please consider The Gaylord Texan, J.W. Marriott Hotels and Resorts, the Marriott Marquis, W Hotels, Courtyard Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Sheraton Hotels, Ritz Carlton Hotels and Resorts, Aloft Hotels and Westin Hotels. Yeah, they’re all part of Marriott Corporation.

JAK Dinner 

Speaking of slobbering, last Tuesday night Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Oak Hill hosted a Meet The Maker event and seated multi-course bourbon dinner at their Oak Hill location with Chef Chris and Chef Jack.

We drank and talked whiskey until the wee hours of the morning when Hope spilled me into an Uber and sent me home. We hope you can make it to out next the Meet The Maker event or the Bourbon Pairing Dinner. We are going to create some legendary stories. Thank you to the amazing chefs, Jack Gilmore, Antonio “Rojo” Lujano, Chris TenEyck and Dee Dee Sanchez and the JAK beverage guru, David Toby. Also to the amazing wait staff who kept the night rockin’ and rollin’.

In November, we’re going to do it all over again, but this time everybody’s coming out to our place. Jack Gilmore and his son Bryce — James Beard nominated Chef/Owner of Odd Duck and Barley Swine — will face off in our kitchen at the distillery in Hye. We’ll be inviting guests from all three restaurants to join us in the Barrel Barn for a wild game cook-off pitting father versus son on the grills and smokers. Stay tuned for more information about how to get tickets to this once in a lifetime event.

Here’s a list of other bourbon drinking events that are on the horizon:

March 2nd – All Day
2018 Small Batch Release Party: A Toast To Texas
Garrison Brothers Distillery, Hye, TX

March 3rd – 12:00pm to 6:00pm CST
Join Dan Garrison & Dayton Vause @ Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival
Atlanta, GA

March 5th – 4:00 pm EST
Majestic Wine and Spirits Presents: Garrison Brothers
Carmella’s Plates & Pints
Pittsburgh, PA

April 28 – 6:00pm to 10:00pm CST
Cattle Baron’s Ball

Speaking of Grabbing a Drink

If you can’t make it to any of these fandangos, you can always come have a drink with us in Hye. We conduct distillery tours at 10, noon 2 and 4. You can make a reservation or buy a fancy t-shirt here: www.garrisonbros.com.

You don’t have to take a tour to taste our bourbon though. We are serving tastings and cocktails at our Hospitality Cabin Wednesday through Sunday from 10 to 5.

Thanks for drinking good bourbon. Vaya con Dios,

Kind regards,

Dan Garrison

Distiller, Whiskey Peddler and Toilet Scrubber