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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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Anchorage Distillery, Alaska, USA

Anchorage Distillery, Alaska, USA

There have been much published on the emergence of micro distilleries in the USA, the UK and indeed all over the world. Much of that has been positive but there is it appears one major drawback to a micro distillery that to my knowledge has gone unsaid. The truth is they don’t always make very long or interesting tours. A recent visit to this site in an industrial park on outskirts of Anchorage was a perfect example of that. After arriving at the very cosy bar I was taken to see the distillery. Ten minutes later I was back in the bar. A micro tour of a micro distillery? That said the cocktails, vodka, gin and white whisky samples flowed freely (though not in commercial sense, I had to pay) and I enjoyed my visit very much.  I was fortunate to be their only customer that chilly afternoon in February so I had full attention of their excellent host.  The finale was a ghost pepper vodka that is the oral equivalent of taking your palate to the woodshed and beating the crap out of it with a stick!  I left warm and content (with a slighty numb tongue) and a bag full of goodies from a rather well stocked shop, at least that is my recollection after 6 or 7 drink samples. I also took a 5cl sample of their Arctic Ice Moonshine Whiskey (http://www.somanywhiskies.com/reviews/item/814-arctic-ice-moonshine-whiskey) as the only aged whisky this site has produced to date is some rye that is still in cask but that means I have a reason to go back as well.



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