Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Garrison Brothers Bourbon

A very belated post but better late than never, right? Well one of my favorite things I did on my extended Texas Christmas vacation was take a day trip up to the Hill Country to visit Texas' first and oldest legal Bourbon distilleries, Garrison Brothers. I took pretty careful notes, and since this blog is half bourbon I thought I'd give you a proper bourbon distillery tour in pictures but just to caveat- my notes may be a little off. If you're familiar please feel free to correct. It was fast typing the way the tour was moving and with all the information given.
A few twists and turn off a minor Texas highway, and then up a mostly dirt road to the starting point of the tour, you then park your car and are then loaded onto a tractor bed of sorts, to be taken the rest of the way to the distillery. For those not from Texas this may be the start of something that sounds terribly cliche and stereotypical, but I assure you there was nothing kitschy in this. It's just Texas. Plain and simple.
 The starting point of making bourbon. If you recall from my bourbon notes it must be at least 51% corn. Garrison Brothers uses a more typical 74% and all from the pan handle in Texas. After that is 15% wheat and a little Pacific Northwest barley combination. All the grains they use are organic. The corn bin was obviously the largest one to the left.
The enzymes in the barley help to convert the sugars in the corn. Did you know that? I didn't. All part of the formula that goes into creating the mash bill. Above are where the grains are hoisted up in a conveyor belt to be ground together to create the mash bill.
Then the mash is cooked for 8 hours. The water added is limestone water straight from the Edwards aquifer- another Texas feature that makes it similar to Kentucky- limestone. Hard water makes for good fermentation. Above are the Garrison Brothers cookers.
After boiling the wheat is added and once the mixture has cooled down the yeast is added. As it's a living organism, to survive it can't be too cold or too hot. Once the yeast is added the mash is put into the bins like those above. Yeast produces heat around sugars so 22% sugar to only 7%- the yeast turns 15% of those sugars to alcohol.
Once that's done the mash is pumped into the stills. Garrison Brothers has a secret yeast mixture that can withstand the Texas heat. They cut down the white dog to 124 proof, with collected rainwater that's been treated with o2, then the liquid is seperated from the mash and stored in #4 char new oak barrels. They also give the drained mash to local ranchers who feed it to their cattle. I imagine those are some pretty happy cows eating some organic grains.
Where the bottling is done. Each is hand bottled and then signed at the end. The crockpots are where the wax is heated for the bottle tops.
A #4 char new oak barrel.
And the bourbon. A very intense smoke flavor and a lot of brown sugar on the nose. It lingers but not in a bad way. No off putting after taste like I get with some other bourbons. For me personally it would be great sipping with a tiny splash of water.
 My home. My flag. And now a Texas bourbon too. I'm feeling pretty complete right now.
Storage of the barrels. Due to the the Texas heat this bourbon doesn't necessarily need the same amount of time that some more Northern produced ones do. Their 2008 bourbon was just released a year ago.
A view of the countryside. It's no wonder someone would willing give up their desk job to do this day in and out. A Texas horizon and a beautiful blue sky. Who could ask for more?

And what I really liked about Garrison Brothers though was knowing how local and organic they are. Using the natural elements in Texas, water, heat, as many grains as possible, and even giving their used mash to ranchers to feed their cows. It's not even as a follow along to the local movement, it's about creating a localized Texas product, that is at the heart of what locavorism is all about.


  1. Great explanation and pictures, I'd visited here before and loved it. Arcane Texas liquor laws make direct sales at distilleries/breweries illegal but there was a hole in the wall liquor store a couple miles away that must do good business after their tours.

  2. Oh I'm sure. I'm regretting not getting a bottle!



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