There's a new Texas whiskey out on the market.
Straight out of the Hill Country, the latest release from Garrison Brothers (and the first since their flagship Bourbon in 2010) is unlike anything else coming out of the Lone Star state.
And with that claim comes a hefty price tag.
The Cowboy Bourbon comes from ten of Owner Dan Garrison's favorite barrels from the 5,000 the distillery has produced to date. He set aside these special barrels for a couple of years for further maturation, and is now releasing the liquid at cask-strength.
It's a small batch release (only 600 bottles were shipped to market earlier this month) of "uncut and unfiltered" whiskey, culled straight from the barrel. Because the liquid wasn't diluted before bottling, the proof comes in at 136. While your average bottled whiskey sits around 80-90 proof, for comparison, 68% alcohol by volume isn't unusual for whiskies released at cask-strength.
Garrison said he's wanted to release a whiskey at full strength since he tasted his first bottle of George T. Stagg. He says finding good high proof bourbon can be difficult, because "it takes a special barrel to create one that is sweet enough to be enjoyed at such a high proof. The potency normally overpowers the flavor." This is not the case with the Cowboy Bourbon, he claims. "It’s so sweet, the taste overpowers the strength."
Since the whiskey is so potent, Garrison recommends it for professionals only. "Barrel proof bourbon is not for everyone. It should be savored in moderation. If one is accustomed to drinking two or three glasses of bourbon in the evening, one should cut way back with our Cowboy Bourbon. You could hurt yourself. Instead, enjoy a small glass slowly with an expertly grilled rib eye steak."
And as if those attributes weren't unique enough for you, here's the real kicker. The bourbon is packaged in 375 mL bottles, which holds approximately 12.5 oz. of liquid. Garrison anticipates retailers asking $159-169 per bottle. If you do the math, that means you're essentially paying $14 an ounce.
To ask for prices worthy of something like Bourbon-lovers' most coveted booze, the elusive Pappy Van Winkle, for a young Texas whiskey might seem nuts to some people. Yes, there are only so many bottles, so it's a rare release. Yes, it's high proof, so you're getting more bang for your buck. But $169? Really?
So I asked Garrison what he'd say to people who might turn their nose up at such an expensive product from a relatively new player in the national whiskey game. He replied:
"Garrison Brothers Distillery is making the finest tasting, highest quality straight bourbon whiskey made in America today. Those who buy it consider it a special occasion treat and a value. Those who don’t haven’t experienced great bourbon yet. I dare say that I like my Cowboy Bourbon better than any bottle of barrel proof bourbon I’ve ever tasted, including Stagg, William Heavenhill and Parker’s Heritage. The barrel proof buyer is paying for the last remaining drops in an almost empty barrel (because of Texas’ dramatic Angel’s Share losses.). Those exquisite drops are expensive. If anyone else could make a bourbon as fine as our Cowboy Bourbon, they would also be forced to price it this high."
They're keeping mum on exactly which stores will carry the stuff (if there's any left), but if you take a gander at the ususal suspects list and make a few calls, you might be able to find a bottle. If not, you'll have to wait until the next release in 2015.