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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Garrison Brothers, Texas, USA

This visit had a lot of firsts for me.  It was my first bourbon distillery, my first US distillery and the first distillery where we were greeted by the founder and owner of the distillery, in this case Dan Garrison of Garrison Brothers.  Pretty cool.  Located in Hye, this is Texas’ first legal bourbon distillery since prohibition and is producing a very nice product.  They charge $10 for a tour but this is one of the most interactive distillery tours I have ever been on and as they patiently waited for their whiskey to mature while resisting the temptation to sell white dog spirit or put an immature product on the market I didn’t mind paying.  My favorite aspect of this tour (other the laid back hospitality I have come to love about Texas) was the fact we were able to try and taste at every stage of production.  We could taste the mash after the corn, wheat and malted barley had been cooked (it was bit like sweet breakfast oatmeal), then taste the distillers beer during fermentation (quite sour but with some fruit), white dog spirit off the still at 140 proof (hot and herbal) and finally (of course) the matured, Texas straight bourbon.   

What are the main differences between a single malt and bourbon distillery? The first was the grain recipe.  Garrison Brothers use corn, wheat and malted barley (but no rye which is often found in bourbon recipes) while single malt distilleries of Scotland use only malted barley.  In Scotland the sugars are extracted by adding hot water to the grains, in bourbon making the process involves actually cooking the grains in water to extract the sugars.  The fermentation process in most malt distilleries produces a “beer” of around 8% ABV, Garrison Brothers beer was closer to 16% ABV.  Finally the distillation of the bourbon was done in a single still but single malt is always double distilled and sometimes triple distilled.   Garrison uses 500 gal of beer at 15%  ABV which is put into the steam heated stills and in turn produces about 150 gal of 140 proof (or 70% ABV) white dog spirit that is aged for at least 2 years in oak casks so that it can be called “straight” bourbon.  Garrison Brothers use a #4 char, also known as alligator char (and the "alligator" in the Ardbeg Alligator).

They have no license to sell liquor so we couldn’t actually buy a bottle at the distillery so I bought a T shirt instead, but there is a licensed store when you turn off the main road for Garrison Bros.  I believe if you are whiskey loving Texan you will love this place and being in the middle of Texas wine country (yes that really exists) there are plenty of other reasons to make the trip and visit the area as well.  If I had to complain it would be the price per bottle.  At almost $80 / bottle retail this is very expensive for a bourbon, but there are good reasons for that.  In it's defence it is not bad when compared to the price of many Scotch single malts in Texas and hopefully with some sustained success, time (and of course increased volumes) we will see the price point reduce. 

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Glengoyne, Dumgoyne, Scotland

Glengoyne, Dumgoyne, Scotland

If the Mayans were correct, the world was going to end on December 21st 2012. I decided that if that was going to be my last day I was going to spend a little time that day at a distillery. Glengoyne has a picture perfect setting with a waterfall outside the very nice visitor center. They offer a variety of tours (based on the tasting at the end) and allowed our daughter to come along as well.   Overall I thought tour was good, a short video at the beginning along with a dram of Glengoyne 12 year old and a well stocked shop, (but they did charge us for the tour). One observation was that they use one wash still with two spirit stills, rather than the usual wash still and spirit still pair. However what was most interesting to me was that they were very proud of fact they are technically a Highland distillery and even pointed out that the road that runs outside the distillery is the boundary between the highlands and lowlands. If they were on other side of road they would be a lowland distillery. I have stated before that I don’t think it would be a bad thing for them to style themselves as a lowland distillery, as today they are just another Highland distillery, but they obviously feel differently. But the thing is, and I think it is quite a thing, that they mature their whisky across the road; technically in the lowlands. Most people suggest maturation accounts for around 60% - 70% of taste of final product and Glengoyne mature their spirit in the lowlands! So you could argue the final product is more lowland than highland.

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