So one of my best friends, Sam, has worked with Garrison Brothers for a while now. She has invited me countless times to come out there and it took a looooong time to get me out there. One of the main reasons was just because of the drive (it’s in the middle of
nowhere the hill country) and my schedule was always hectic. I always had something to do on the weekends and it’s not like Hye, Texas is a quick drive for me.
I finally made my way out there for the first time in February because I was missing my best friend and obviously to see what all her fuss was about. Let me just tell you, I was blown away. I took a tour when I got there and was overwhelmed with information yet still left curious. The craft that goes into making bourbon is incredible. The making of this spirit is expensive and time consuming due to the many industry regulations. It has very strict standards of identity which state it must be made of 51% corn, must be distilled at 160 proof, it must be barreled below 125 proof, and it must mature in new white American oak barrels. The biggest misconception is that it must come from Kentucky. WRONG. It can come from anywhere in the United States. Take THAT, Kentucky whiskey lovers!
After I heard this for the first time, I still wasn’t sure how this particular process compared to the processes for making other spirits. Lucky for me, Stephanie (our tour guide for the day) briefly explained that while other spirits do have their own standards of identity, they’re not as strict as the ones aforementioned. For instance, vodka is basically only required to be without distinctive aroma, taste, or color which is achieved by treating it after distillation.
Garrison Brothers is better than the industrial whiskey-makers because everything they do is done by hand. That’s right – BY HAND! Therefore, each barrel that is produced has its own character. If they didn’t do it that way, they’d lose their edge and be like one of those other competitors. I also learned that whiskey is a “class” which is a broad category; and straight bourbon whiskey is a “type” which is a more specific type of spirit. So rye whiskey, bourbon whiskey, straight bourbon whiskey are all types of whiskey just like vodka is a type of neutral spirit.
During your tour, you get to taste the results of the different stages of the process and most importantly, the bourbon. The guys explain the process to you very well and you even get to learn how they hand bottle. It’s a very cool process (which I will get to later) that involves volunteers and lots of “quality control”. Let’s not ignore the important fact that they use Texas grains and Texas rain water. That’s right, it’s as Texan as it can get!
My first experience at the distillery was indescribable. The ranch is deep in the hill country and fills you with a very warm feeling like you’re at home. The employees are very welcoming and take great care of you while you visit. They offer several local beers and wines for your consumption along with plenty of water; all they ask is that you make a donation so that they can continue to stock the fridge. It’s virtually free.
The ranch is surrounded by trees everywhere, some with hammocks in between for you to enjoy. There are picnic tables, rocking chairs, and fire pits which are just as enjoyable as the hammocks. They play music as well and have games such as darts and corn hole for you to pass the time before or after your tour. Then there’s the gift shop where you can buy all your bottles and accessories.
Needless to say, I really loved my experience there not just because my best friend works there but because I love the craft that goes into this. And obviously the bourbon is spectacular! I love that they take pride in their product and want to share it with everyone. It’s a huge perk that she works there because I get to learn right along with her. I’ve even gone as far as becoming a self-proclaimed promoter!
I recently went on a trip to Seattle and left a few “Drink Texas Bourbon” bumper stickers around the town. I mean, people think Kentucky is the only whiskey producer in the country but come on, everything is BIGGER and BETTER in Texas! All I was trying to do was share the greatness with the Pacific Northwest. 😉
I had the great pleasure of helping to bottle on Saturday. It was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had doing something so laborious. Seriously, it’s awesome! There are about 10 jobs on the assembly line and while the work is being done, there’s music in the background. Since it’s football season, they also have the games showing. They provide you with breakfast and lunch prepared by none other than
my bestie’s husband Chef Joseph which is accompanied by endless non-alcoholic beverages and beer. But the icing on the cake is the frequent “quality control” checking. Yep, about every hour there’s shots of bourbon! At the end of it all, you even get a gift bag with lots of goodies and even your very own bottle of bourbon. Not a bad deal if you ask me. If you get the chance to bottle, I highly recommend you sign up. It’s so much fun!
So for those of you who love bourbon and a good time, visit their website (http://www.garrisonbros.com) and book your tour ASAP. You won’t be disappointed! And for those of you who don’t live close enough to the distillery, check out some of the videos on YouTube for some great information as well.