While Garrison Brothers was the first legal distillery in Texas, founded in ’05-’06, it’s really been the last couple years that Garrison Brothers Bourbon has become more notable and widespread. I’ve seen it all over the shelves of different liquor stores, but I’ve continually passed on it due to the ~$80 price tag. Well, that was until I stumbled on Garrison Brothers Bourbon Boot Flask.
It’s their standard small batch whiskey, just sold in a 375ml bottle and shaped in a way that fits inside your boot. Sure I ended up paying more money per fluid ounce, but I didn’t have to commit to an $80 bottle.
In this review, we’re going to discuss some of the history behind Garrison Brothers Bourbon, challenges of distilling in Texas, and the tasting notes of a bottle of Garrison Brothers Small Batch Texas Bourbon.
Garrison Brothers History
Back in 2004, Dan Garrison did what so many of us dream about doing – quitting our jobs and opening a distillery. The distillery, founded in 2005, was constructed on a ranch in Hye, Texas, located a west of Austin and north of San Antonio.
Their first whiskey was released in 2010, and since then, they have released 9 other whiskeys – bringing their total count to 10.
Challenges Distilling Whiskey in Texas
It’s weird to think that the first legal distillery in Texas has been around for less than two decades. While Texas whiskey is growing, much as it is around many US states, there are some very serious challenges distillers face.
It’s not just laws and regulations, nor is it simply the capital required to get a distillery up and running. A big problem many Texas distillers face is during the aging process. The Texas heat. According to Garrison Brothers’ website, they lost hundreds of gallons of whiskey because the heat “nuked the barrels”.
During aging, the whiskey in the barrels is subject to mother nature. Even sitting inside a rickhouse, barrels are exposed to changing temperatures and humidity. Well, things can get hot down in Texas, and alcohol and water are liquids…. meaning they evaporate. Known as the Angel’s Share, some 5% of the whiskey in a barrel can evaporate each year.
While this problem isn’t unique to Texas, it does make aging whiskey a little more challenging and costly. It’s one of the reasons Garrison Brothers has played around with aging whiskey in various sized barrels, some of which are 15, 30, or 59 gallons – deviating from the standard 53 gallon barrel which they use as well.
Garrison Brothers Bourbon Overview
- Spirit: Small Batch Straight Bourbon – Boot Flask (2023)
- Owned By: Dan Garrison
- Distilled By: Garrison Brothers Distillery
- Aged: 3 Years
- ABV: 47%, 94 proof
- Mashbill: 74% corn, 15% soft red winter wheat, 11% malted barley
- Price: $75-85 for 750ml, $40-45 for 375ml
Garrison Brothers Boot Flask Bourbon may not be labeled as small batch, but it is the same whiskey that goes into their standard 750ml small batch bourbon, so it is. Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon is produced once a year, so every year the whiskey is a bit different, and once it’s gone for the year, it’s gone.
Every whiskey that goes into Garrison Brothers Bourbon is 3 to 4 years old. Since the youngest whiskey is aged three years, the bottle must state it’s age. It’s also bottled at 94 proof, 47% ABV. 92-110 proof is my ideal proof, specifically that 94-104 range, so I like where this bottle sits at. However, the age is more of an issue. One of my favorite bottles, Chattanooga Whiskey 111, holds a 2 year age statement, so I know young bourbon can be good. $80 for a 3 year age statement still seems a bit questionable, though.
Garrison Brothers uses a wheated mashbill like Maker’s Mark, Larceny, Weller, Van Winkle, Old-Fitzgerald, and other bourbons. Wheat is the second most prominent grain instead of the usual rye. Wheat is known to make a whiskey more mellow whereas rye brings extra spice and flavor.
What is Garrison Brothers Boot Flask?
Garrison Brothers Boot Flask is the 375ml bottle of their standard small batch offering. It’s called Boot Flask because it’s shaped in a manner to make sliding it in your boot an easy task.
While I’ve snuck liquor in to many events using my boots, a jacket, or a friend’s purse, I’m probably not going to try that with Garrison Brothers. First, I’m no longer in college. Second, I’m not going to risk losing a $43 375ml bottle. I’ll throw some Beam shooters or fireball shooters in my boot or pocket if I’m really that desperate.
The people at Garrison Brothers know this, but Texans are proud people, and most of us have some memory of sneaking a flask in a boot. It’s more so a marketing idea to really play on the fact that this is a Texas Bourbon. I like the Boot Flask because it’s cheaper. And while I may not recommend sneaking it in to games, concerts, or bars, it is more ergonomic for enjoying on the go.
Garrison Brothers Bourbon Tasting Notes
Okay, now that we’ve covered all the basics, let’s talk about the bourbon. Is Garrison Brothers Bourbon good? What does it taste like? Time to pour myself a glass.
Nose: Honey and butterscotch, slight floral note, finished wood, lemon and brown sugar. A little bit of tobacco and then a lot of darker nuts. Pecan and walnut.
Palate: Pecan, walnut, hazelnut are very prevalent here. A little bit of black pepper, leather and tobacco. Lemon cake, a touch of mint, butterscotch. There’s a dryness, but the whiskey still coats your mouth.
Finish: That oak and leather is here, dried fruit and pecans. and baking spice. Medium in length.
Taste Summary – Is Garrison Brothers Bourbon Good?
I had a glass of it the other day before reviewing it, and I didn’t like it that much. Today, I actually enjoy it a decent bit, but I still don’t love it. There’s some uniqueness to this bourbon with lots of nutty flavors, citrus, and baking spice.
I don’t really like the nose. There’s some nice flavors in there separately, but I don’t love how they come together. It makes me think of epoxy coated wood. However, that may just be from my memory because I also get some pecan pie.
On the palate, I still get a lot of the nuts, primarily pecan, which is the Texas state tree. Pepper hits the tip of my tongue, but it’s nothing overpowering. It is a mellow sip that still has a hit of spice to it. There’s also a good bit of citrus, mostly lemon for me, and the more I drink it, the more I get some dark, dried fruits as well.
The finish isn’t anything special. It’s smooth, it’s easy, but it’s just most of the primary notes transferring over.
I’m not a huge fan of wheated bourbon, and I’m not a huge fan of nutty bourbons, but I still enjoy Garrison Brothers Bourbon. Most people enjoy it, or so I imagine, but that’s not really the problem.
The problem is the price. And I promise you, I’m not the only one that thinks this. In Texas, you can get a 750ml bottle for $70, but elsewhere it’s closer to $85. That price tag for a 3 year, small batch bourbon is aggressive. It’s not bad whiskey by any means, but there’s A LOT of whiskey that’s better at, or even below, that price range.
I like 94 proof, too, but it’s nice to get stronger options or barrel proof whiskey at $80. This way, you can proof it down if need be. $85 is a lot to spend for 94 proof, 3 year bourbon.
If you really want to try Garrison Brothers Bourbon, I’d suggest you start with the Boot Flask if you can. Sure it’s $43 for a 375ml bottle, but it’ll let you save some money while letting you try a new whiskey.
Garrison Brothers Bourbon Summary
I like the story behind Garrison Brothers. A man quit his job to open a distillery out on a ranch in the middle of Texas. Ranching and making whiskey…. pretty cool. They also faced plenty of troubles when they first opened, but they persevered. On top of that, they do loads of charitable work throughout their community. I respect it.
The whiskey inside the bottle is a different story. Garrison Brothers Bourbon is good, but it doesn’t constitute the price tag that comes with it. Almost everyone says the same thing, and Garrison Brothers knows it. Since writing this review and doing research, I’ve seen multiple GB ads. They’ve all mentioned the hefty price tag, but claim it’s worth it.
I’m not so sure. However, I’ve enjoyed my pours of Garrison Brothers Boot Flask, and the $40 is a little easier to swallow than $80.