Whiskey Review: Garrison Brothers Estacado - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Garrison Brothers Estacado

Garrison Brothers Distillery in Hye, Texas, makes exactly one kind of whiskey: Texas bourbon. There’s no Garrison Brothers vodka, no Garrison Brothers gin, no Garrison Brothers kiwi liqueur, just corn, rye, barley, oak, and time, in those well-known, suitable proportions.

That admirable focus has earned them a lot of kudos. Their flagship, Cowboy Bourbon, was named “American Micro Whiskey of the Year” by Jim Murray back in 2014, and USA Today readers voted them the “#1 Best Craft Whiskey Distillery in America” this year.

But just because they’re focused doesn’t mean the folks at Garrison Brothers don’t like to experiment every once in a while. The company periodically releases experimental bourbons, single barrels, and the like, including three new variants we announced earlier this year. This review focuses on one of those, Garrison Brothers Estacado, which is only available from the distillery’s tasting room.

The Estacado name comes from the Llano Estacado Winery, a Texas winery near Lubbock. Many people are surprised to learn that Texas has a wine industry, but it’s true, and Llano Estacado has been proving the worth of West Texas terroir since 1976.

According to the distillery, in 2015, Llano Estacado called up Garrison Brothers and asked if they’d be interested in finishing whiskey in some of their used port barrels. Garrison Brothers said yes, and selected ten 15-gallon barrels of two-year-old straight bourbon for the project. That whiskey spent nine months resting in Llano Estacado port casks before bottling.

In a supremely Texan touch, the whiskey is packaged in a “boot flask,” which is “ergonomically designed to fit snugly around your calf in your most comfortable pair of boots. The metal star juts out from the bottle locking the package into the boot leather.” As a writer who lives in Portland, Oregon, most of my days are spent wearing wool office slippers that allow me to quietly pad down to the café for an Americano, a footwear choice that is sadly unsuited to a road test of this particular feature. However, it’s a fun, folksy touch, and the textured star looks great on the front of the flask.

Garrison Brothers Estacado

image via Margarett Waterbury/The Whiskey Wash

Tasting Notes: Garrison Brothers Estacado

Vital Stats: Texas bourbon, aged two years in white oak casks and finished nine months in Llano Estacado port wine casks. 107 proof, about $70 for a 375ml bottle.

Appearance: Dark amber

Nose: Concentrated and salty, with a firm oaky core. There’s roasted corn, scorched corn husk, leather, red hots, and a light mustiness. I don’t think I’d guess this had been in a port cask if I didn’t know already – the fruit isn’t loud, and it’s not particularly sweet.

Water brightens up the nose quite a lot, teasing out some welcome freshness, with lemon and melon leading the way.

Palate: Grainy flavors hug a scaffold of big, broad extractive oak. There’s tons of cinnamon in the second half of the palate, carrying through to a salt-and-pepper finish. The oak character is pretty rough-and-tumble—think framing lumber rather than a polished hardwood floor—which translates to a relatively brief, dry finish with a bitter extractive note.

Again, a splash of water works wonders, unlocking some port-influenced raisins and prunes along with brioche, puff pastry, and salted butter.

The Takeaway

Initially closed, oaky, and dense, water truly transformed this whiskey, releasing flavor, sweetness, and character. It's like getting two whiskeys in one - an oaky, spicy bruiser, and a brighter, fruit-forward sipper. I'd tuck Estacado into my (hypothetical) boot any day.

User Rating 3.07 (14 votes)