Welcome back to my occasional “state of the business” report about Garrison Brothers Distillery and scathing indictment of whatever is pissing me off in liquorland. I was once good about publishing this blog with some frequency, but I have spent too much time traveling in recent months to get it out consistently. And my wife tells me I drink too much to be a good writer.
This publication needs a new name. “Texas Bourbon News” is boring. How about “WhiskeyBent,” “Blathering about Bourbon” or “Dan’s Whiskey Rant.” We need something sexier. If you are a regular reader and have good ideas, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Seriously.
The Texas Whiskey Association and Certified Texas Whiskey
Sourced whiskey (industrial commodity whiskey that’s sold in bulk to marketing companies) may finally have met its match. You’ve heard me rant before about private label brands and sourced brands that claim to be made in Texas. Their bottles likely say something like “produced or bottled in Texas.” And most of the time, it’s horseshit.
Well, good news! It appears the United States Tax and Trade Bureau (the TTB) is evaluating their labeling laws, and such vague pronouncements of the origin of the liquid might become more illegal. We’ll definitely drink to that.
Even better, here in Texas, we have taken matters into our own hands by forming the Texas Whiskey Association, an organization of Texas whiskey makers who believe in authenticity, honesty and transparency in labeling and marketing. All Texas whiskey makers are welcome and encouraged to join the organization but to have a certified Texas whiskey they must adhere to a code that assures honesty and transparency, and they must agree to a process audit.
You’ll soon start seeing this silver seal on bottles released by member distilleries. If that seal is on a bottle, you can rest assured that the liquid in the bottle was actually distilled here in Texas. Our own auditors are visiting Texas distilleries and verifying the production process as we speak. I hope you’ll buy a bottle of Certified Texas Whiskey and go visit the distillery that makes it. You might also want to visit the Texas Whiskey Trail at https://texaswhiskeytrail.com/ – also brought to you by the Texas Whiskey Association.
Red, White and Bourbon
If you were not in Hye, Texas on November 10, you missed one hell of an American fandango. I will treasure the memory of this day for the rest of my life.
General Michael Hagee, former Commandant of the Marine Corps, and supporters and staff from The Nimitz Museum in Fredericksurg, Texas, along with a few hundred veterans from the Gulf, Vietnam and Korean Wars, got together at the distillery to celebrate
Veteran’s Day and the Marine Corps 243rd birthday. My veteran father (Navy submarines) was there to tell firsthand stories about Admiral Nimitz and my grandfather Malcolm Everett “Gary” Garrison. What a joy it was to see heroes of mine on stage together!
While the General and I flipped burgers for the kids, Reverend Jason “Rev” Brand drove the museum’s tank all over our ranch. Grape Creek, William Chris, Cicada Cellars and Hye Meadow Winery donated their fine wines for the event. Family Business Brewery was there, sampling a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout called The Grackle. Our friends and neighbors, Case and Dietz from Fischer and Weiser, donated ALL the food. Fredericksburg restaurants Otto’s and Tubby’s provided delicious food too. Rambler Sparkling Soda and Coca-Cola donated the beverages. And, of course, Garrison Brothers Distillery provided free bourbon samples to veterans and their families.
We opened the event in the morning with Garrison Brothers’ own Mike Walsh blowing Reveille on his trumpet, a formal flag raising ceremony and a brief prayer. We closed the party down early in the evening by playing Taps on the trumpet. It was a really moving day.
There were two highlights for me: First, at least a half-dozen of the vets in attendance shook my hand and said thank you (how backwards is that!). I had tears in my eyes each time. Second, was the remarkable, hair-raising flyover. Three T-6 Texans out of Dallas and Midland swooped down over our party right at high noon. These crazy beautiful pilots were clipping the treetops of the live oaks, and the flyover endured for almost 30 minutes. A sight I will never forget…
Texas Parks and Wildlife and Balmorhea State Park
If you enjoy rich, heavy, oily bourbon whiskies that pack a punch, you’ve probably partaken of Balmorhea. If so, thank you from the bottom of our hearts, because every time you buy a bottle, we donate $5 to a 501c3 public charity our family and staff formed called Good Bourbon for a Good Cause. In turn, our charity donates the funds that are raised to social projects and causes that we value, such as restoration of the pool at Balmorhea State Park. (The pool was closed in early 2018 following a structural collapse of a wall caused by years of erosion from the flow of water from the springs.)
In 2018, if you attended our Balmorhea Blue pool parties, our Balmorhea Blue Bourbon dinners at Truluck’s, WhiskeyCake, or our Balmorhea Blue Bourbon 101 Classes at Total Wine and More stores or at other Texas retailers, we want to wet-kiss you. Or just say thank you. Together, we raised $30,000 that was donated to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation in February 2019 for the restoration, preservation and a long-term landscaping plan for Balmorhea State Park. (By the way, that $30,000 became $60,000 when Apache Energy Corporation announced their million-dollar challenge grant for TPF&W. Well done, friends!)
Since then, the pool has reopened and is now ready for the beautiful Texas summer. We’re working closely with the fine folks at TP&W to preserve its long-term health and beauty and to ensure future generations of Texans can cherish those beautiful, healing waters for years to come.
A Big and Bawdy Bottle of Balmorhea
The enthusiasm for Balmorhea has been overwhelming. Liquor stores tell us it is flying off the shelf after being named the American Whiskey of the Year by Jim Murray in his 2019 Whisky Bible.
Bartenders serving Balmorhea have asked us to get them a bigger bottle, so in May of 2019, we’ll be introducing Balmorhea in a 750mL bottle. It takes some pretty special and expensive barrels to make Balmorhea though, so when we release it, there will only be a few hundred bottles available.
If you like that bourbon, please visit https://www.garrisonbros.com/find-it to find your own bottle. We would appreciate it and so will Texas Parks & Wildlife. And trust us, it’s worth every damn penny.
The Texas Bourbon Shootout
Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Murray in person for the first time in February in Longview, where I have a few old friends, at the first annual Texas Bourbon Shootout and Bourbon and Bowties. Both events were fundraisers for the East Texas Bourbon Society and the Longview World of Wonders Hands-on Children’s Discovery Museum, both 501c3 charities.
I could not have been more impressed with Longview, which shall be known henceforth as the bourbon capital of Texas. The east Texas bourbon society has more than 350 members, and they flew Mr. Murray across the pond to judge which Texas whiskey distillery is making the best bourbon. The competition was stiff: Ironroot Republic, Ranger Creek, Firestone & Robertson, Balcones, and Andalucia. All our friends were there.
Garrison Brothers’ Balmorhea was not only the crowd’s favorite, but also Jim Murray’s. Jim awarded Balmorhea the Double Gold Grand Champion award and the title of The Best Grain to Glass Texas Bourbon! It was a proud moment. Too damn cool.
The Badass Sombidges from Team Rubicon
It’s always good to know that someone qualified has got your Six. That’s how I feel about the wonderful and impactful gang at Team Rubicon. Every day, America and other parts of the world are faced with new dangers: fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis or storms. Thank God we have a team of well-trained and resourceful disaster relief individuals responding to all of them.
Through Good Bourbon for a Good Cause, we were able to support the amazing men and women at Team Rubicon in 2018. We held a series of “RED Friday” (RED stands for “Remember Everyone Deployed”) happy hours at The Happiest Hour in Dallas and many Little Woodrows. We donated $1 to Team Rubicon for every bottle of Boot Flask bourbon you bought and $5 for every bottle of Cowboy Bourbon you purchased. We sponsored, attended, donated bourbon and supported Team Rubicon’s massive Dallas fundraiser, A Salute To Service, as did our distribution partner Republic National Distributing Company, where an entire barrel of the nectar of the Gods was auctioned off.
The Bourbon Takeover of Texas
As I write this, I’m doing 90 miles per hour from Dallas to Houston for the third exciting night of the Bourbon Takeover of Texas. Night before last, I had the amazing opportunity to hand out a golden ticket to a semi-finalist of the largest bartending competition ever held in Texas: Jacob Peters at Whiskey & Rye in the Fort Worth Omni Hotel for his amazing Peters Blackberry Smash. The cocktail was remarkable but the story of how he got where he is now is nothing short of inspirational. Good Bourbon Can Change the World.
The following night, I gave another golden ticket out to Scott Jenkins at Hide in Dallas’ Deep Ellum District. Scott and his mixologist Haley collaborated to create “A Sour with Merrit”. Outstanding! Scott is a mad chemist, creating an array of acid-enhanced mixers to alter the finish of his cocktails. The result? Bourbon Utopia.
The Bourbon Takeover of Texas continues through the first week of May, when we will crown one Texan the king of creativity and award him or her a life-changing check for $10,000 and a free barrel of bourbon whiskey. Please visit www.garrisonbros.com/bourbon-takeover-of-texas to find out who these amazing mixologists are and learn more about their stories. Owning and operating a bar is a much bigger accomplishment than shaking a shaker. Truth.
Come Grab a Drink with Us in Hye
If you can’t make it to one of the Bourbon Takeover of Texas bars, please 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. But you don’t have to take a tour to taste our bourbon; we serve tastings at our Hospitality Cabin, Wednesday through Sunday from 10 to 5.
Good Bourbon Can Change the World
Friends, in 2018 we sold more bottles of Garrison Brothers bourbon than we have in our entire sordid history. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you for drinking good bourbon. Every time you buy a bottle, you are putting beans on the table for my family, my staff and our neighbors. You are also helping us take care of Texas treasures like Balmorhea State Park, The Nimitz Museum and Team Rubicon. And we’re just getting started. Good bourbon can increase one’s faith in man and God, build enduring friendships and create legendary stories for life.
But there’s more: The FDA and the TTB don’t like me to talk publicly about the medicinal properties of good bourbon – but in the proper dosage, it is an aphrodisiac and can make you and anyone you are sleeping with better looking. Don’t believe me? Get a date and give it a try yourself.
Thanks for drinking good bourbon. Vaya con Dios,
Distiller, Whiskey Peddler, Storyteller and Toilet Scrubber