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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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The London Distillery Company, London, England (Ver 1)

The London Distillery Company, London, England (Ver 1)

I have previously visited a closed distillery (Stitzel Weller in Kentucky, see link below) so why not vsiit one that is not even built yet?  That is what is I did in September 2012 when I visited the fledgling London Distillery Company and was given a personal tour of the former dairy cold room, located in Battersea, that will be home to the first artisinal whisky distillery in the UK.   As I have mentioned recently in my blog entry Living The Dream, the founder, Darren Rook, raised the capital for this project via an internet 'crowd funding' website in 2012.  It turns out this is not only the first London distillery in over 100 years and the UK's first craft distillery but also one of the first 200 or so companies funded in this way.  I am running out of words like "cool" and "exciting" to use about this project and I am really happy to be personally associated in a small way with it, through my own, very minor, investment.  The building work has commenced and when I return after Christmas they expect to be in production of both whisky and gin (this is London afterall) and offering "proper" tours, which I can't wait for.  I have a tour booked for December 28th.... and will update this entry after that.  As they were not operational there were no samples to try at the end of the tour, however Darren did take me to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in London along with the distiller Andrew and intern Marco for a dram or two to make up for that.  Just over 3 years from now, November 2015, we will be tasting their whisky for the first time. 

 

http://www.somanywhiskies.com/distilleries/item/332-stitzel-weller-kentucky-usa

 

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