Garrison Brothers Distillery has been in business, legally, since 2006. That’s 12 long years. For that entire time — nearly every damn day — my annoying lovely wife has been nagging strongly encouraging me to make a bourbon whiskey with hints of honey.
But I have never tasted a honey-flavored bourbon I liked. They’re all syrupy-sweet chemical concoctions. And Bourbon is the nectar of the gods. It’s already a life-changing ambrosia. Why on earth would anyone want to alter bourbon’s flavor? It’s wrong. It’s un-American. It’s communist!
(If you are reading this and you are a married man, I probably don’t have to tell you how this ends: “Yes dear, I was wrong and you were right.”)
Here’s How It All Went Down
In 2017, I was invited to attend a National Honey Board Conference in Nashville. Knowing I did not have the time, I asked our master distiller Donnis Todd if he’d like to participate in the all-expense-paid junket. He went. About the same time we started talking with our good friend Stacey Drab who is the marketing director for Burleson’s Honey. Needless to say, Stacey was all over this project like skinny jeans on a millennial. Stacey can break hearts and manipulate minds.
Donnis went out and bought a bottle of every honey-flavored bourbon he could find. We tasted each one, analyzed how we suspected they were made, and generally, concluded that there was nothing on the shelf that retained it’s true bourbon character like we wanted. Everything was a gooey, sticky, artificial chemical mess. Some even included artificial sweeteners and preservatives we could not pronounce.
That’s when Donnis started getting all voodoo-top-secret about the effort. He went completely dark about his plans. He disappeared for days.
Seven months later I walked into the stillhouse and he said, “taste this.” After just nosing the spirit, I was completely underwhelmed. But then I tasted it. Then I tasted it again. And again. Then I sat down and spent the rest of that hot afternoon nursing this golden liquid dream.
Voodoo Boy convinced Stacy Drab to give us a few gallons of honey. They discussed different options that would assure the potion was truly a genuine, authentic bourbon and not a flavored whiskey. That was critical!
Donnis emptied a few dozen four-year-old Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon barrels into a stainless steel tank. He then decimated all the now empty bourbon barrels by sawing them into small wooden cubes. Working with our friend Matt Albrecht at River Drive Cooperage, he immersed the cubes in Burleson’s Texas Wildflower Honey. Matt used his own patent-pending process to pressure-infuse the cubes with the honey.
Once Donnis was satisfied that the cubes had absorbed all the honey they possibly could, he constructed a giant “teabag” from cheesecloth. The “teabag full of honey-cubes” was immersed by hand in the tank of bourbon every day for seven months.
Introducing HoneyDew Straight Bourbon from Garrison Brothers
Yeah, my lovingly devoted, patient, wise, and brilliant wife was right. (The staff suggested no fewer than four adjectives.)
HoneyDew is unlike any bourbon we have ever released. The nose is gentle with an aroma of sweet elderberry wine, wildflowers and mom’s honey-pineapple upside-down cake, baking in the oven. Taste of wildflowers, plum jelly, vanilla, and cloves. Sweet honey butter on a warm yeast roll. Delicate hibiscus tea and saltwater taffy that tingles the roof of your mouth. Finishes lightly of stewed apricots, cinnamon-toast-crunch cereal, and El Rey white chocolate. A delicate, pleasing mouthful of summertime joy. Unlike all other Garrison Brothers’ bourbons, this one sneaks in like a spring rain shower. I have been drinking bourbon since I was 13 years old and this is the finest nectar I’ve ever tasted.
This project yielded just 3,700 bottles, not nearly enough for a commercial statewide release. But enough to make my wife happy that I completed my “Honey Do.” And certainly enough bottles to make it worth your drive to Hye on August 17 at noon. That’s when these little babies will go on sale at our gift shop for $69.99 for a 375ml boot flask bottle.
Dubbed the HoneyDew Hullabaloo, the daytime party will feature frozen HoneyDew cocktails by Frost 321, a mobile cigar lounge by Habana Cowboy, and a honey-education tent by Burleson’s Honey. Distillery gates will open at noon and the festivities will last until 6 p.m.
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission rules prohibit us from selling more than four bottles per customer. So bring rich, thirsty friends.
I’m trying to convince my staff to let me dress up as a honey bee but they keep whining about heat stroke. I hope to see you there.