Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Garrison Brothers. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
The Lone Star State is home to a growing number of craft distilleries. However, Garrison Brothers was the first legal whiskey distillery of its generation in Texas. For a good number of years now they’ve come out with their limited and very high proof Cowboy Bourbon. This year’s batch came out at 133.9 proof, so just a bit lower proof than last year’s release. It is completely uncut and also unfiltered to give the biggest flavor possible. This year, 6,440 bottles were made. Each is hand numbered by Master Distiller, Donnis Todd; once it is gone, it is gone.
The summers in Texas can reach up to 130 degrees in the scorching sun. Housing traditional barrels full of liquid gold proved difficult at first. However, this did not defeat founder Dan Garrison. Instead, he searched for a cooperage willing to make custom barrels with thick staves that could withstand the brutal temperatures.
100 “piggy banks” make up the 2020 Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon. These are what Donnis Todd calls his favourite top-shelf barrels. Due to the extreme heat, the bourbon inside these barrels evaporates so much. The small amount that is leftover blends to create their most popular whiskey. Apparently, four years in Texas is said to equate to 23 years in Kentucky.
The 2020 edition of Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon sold out within an hour at the distillery. That does not mean you cannot find it, so let’s see if it is worth the hype.
Tasting Notes: Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon 2020
Vital Stats: 66.95% ABV; 133.9 proof. Straight bourbon whiskey at cask strength. Only 6,440 bottles produced, so the whiskey is limited. 750ml $200.
Appearance: Cherry stained wood
Nose: At the beginning, there is a tiny tinge of sour mash. It has so many qualities to it ranging from fruity to smoky. On the fruit side, I pick up on cherry compote with orange peel and orange segments. There is also a hint of mango. The scent of cinnamon scented pine cones mixed with brush fire is abundant. At the end, graham cracker and Cinnamon Toast Crunch linger in the nostrils.
Palate: For starters, it does not drink like a cask strength whiskey. Smoking chips like Applewood or mesquite come out. It reminds me of barbecue pits. The bourbon just tastes like ribs or a brisket rubbed down in pepper, cinnamon, and molasses. Overall, it is reminiscent of smoked barbecue with heaps of barbecue sauce. On the finish, cocoa stays on the tongue.
The Cowboy Bourbon from Garrison Brothers this year reminds me of an upscale version of Fireball crossed with Elijah Craig. It does not burn for its strength and it is the perfect bourbon to pair with your barbecue. It has wood smoke and cinnamon with enough sweetness to keep your mouth mesmerized. There isn’t another whiskey like it. If you come across it, I highly recommend it.
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Courtney Kristjana is a leading whiskey taster in the country. She left a career in Gerontology after an article on Heather Greene inspired her to follow her passion for whiskey. She is studying to become a Master of Scotch and someday hopes she is nominated for the Keepers of the...