Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. 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 in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Hye, Texas, with a population of fewer than 200 people, sits on U.S. Route 290 about an hour west of Austin. The thing to know about Hye, and the Garrison Brothers distillery in town, is that the average daytime high temperature is more than 80 degrees six months of the year. (Considerably more than that in June, July, and August.)
The continual exposure to high heat changes the aging process for its whiskies, Garrison Brothers maintains. It ages them more quickly than would be the case in more moderate climates, and evaporates water more quickly than ethanol – leading to a string of high-proof whiskies like the distillery’s popular annual Cowboy bourbon release.
The Cowboy ages 8-9 years and typically clocks in around 135 proof. The distillery’s flagship Small Batch bourbon ages only three years, and is a much more modest 94 proof.
Garrison Brothers likes to lean into its status as the first legal distillery in Texas – which says something about the youth of the Texas whiskey market, since the distillery was only founded in 2010.
I’ve tasted a number of Garrison Brothers whiskeys in the last few years, and typically find that I like them. They tend to be pricey, though, so don’t look for them on the lower shelves of your local liquor store. The Small Batch, for a 3-year-old bourbon, is no exception.
Tasting Notes: Garrison Brothers Small Batch
Vital stats: Mash bill undisclosed, but at least 51% corn, which is labeled “food grade #1 white from farms in South Texas” on the side of the bottle, as well as wheat and barley; aged at least three years in new American Oak; 94 proof/47% alcohol by volume; around $80 a bottle, but can price more.
Appearance: Brown crayon.
Nose: Much like the Cowboy, the Small Batch hits your nose as sweet. There seems to be something to the distillery’s claim that the punishing heat in Hye makes a difference in the aging process. For a relatively young, 3-year-old bourbon, the oak nose is significant. It brings to mind an orange cream vanilla cake. There’s more wood evident than you’d expect, along with a red wine sweetness.
Palate: In my recent review of the 2022 Cowboy, I wrote that it gets sweeter the more water you add. (Bringing down its 134.8 proof.) I wrote that with enough water, it starts to taste like “chocolate and cherries, with maybe a hint of Dr. Pepper.” I’ll stand by that description with the Small Batch, as well. Its lower alcohol content allows the sweetness to come to the fore. The downside of the lower alcohol content is that it doesn’t have much of a finish. It has a nice moment on the front of the tongue, balanced between sweet, spicy, and nutty, then fades fast.
Whiskey Review: Garrison Brothers Small Batch
As I said above, I tend to like Garrison Brothers whiskeys, but find them a little on the pricey side. Both of those things remain true with the 2022 Small Batch. It’s decent bourbon, and I enjoyed it. But it’s hard to justify a price tag approaching (or north of) $100 for a bottle, when there are a whole lot of quality bourbons I can get in the $50 the $70 range at my local liquor store. If you can find it for $80, then I could be convinced to pick up a bottle.
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Scott Bernard Nelson
Scott Bernard Nelson is a writer, actor and whiskey reviewer in Portland, Ore. Scott works in higher education these days, but he previously spent 22 years as a journalist, covering 9/11 in Manhattan, crossing into Iraq with U.S. Marines and contributing to The Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of sexual...