It seems one Texas Hill Country distillery makes liquid gold.
For the third time, a venerated whiskey critic has given the bourbon-focused Garrison Brothers Distillery top honors in his annually updated whiskey guide.
Garrison Brothers' Balmorhea Double Barrel Bourbon has been awarded American Micro Whiskey of the Year in Jim Murray's Whiskey Bible, an extensive guide to all manner of whiskeys. It's the first time this particular bourbon has won, but other bourbons in the Garrison Brothers portfolio have earned the distinction in the past. The 2017 version of Murray's Whiskey Bible gave the top title to the coveted, hard-to-find Cowboy Bourbon, the latest version of which was released last month.
But Balmorhea, Garrison's only double-barrel option, is getting all of Murray's praise this year. And boy, does he have some poetry to write about it.
“Where do you start…? With the French toast? The molasses on sourdough bread? The spices which simultaneously prickle yet sooth? The Manuka honey smeared over the overcooked fruitcake? The salty, deep tannin...incredible…just incredible….! The sugars form a toasty, sonorous shield that looks as though they are to batter all before them…then melt into a buttery softness. The molasses are in concentrated form, the toastiness profound with the bitter-sweet balance always spot on," he writes in his assessment.
Balmorhea, named after a beautiful West Texas swimming hole that was closed for repairs earlier this year, is aged for three years in new American white oak barrels forged from Ozarks-grown wood. From that point, the liquid is moved to a second new American white oak barrel created from trees grown in Minnesota and aged another two years, according to the distillery. It's bottled at 115 proof.
And it's helping to prove that Texas whiskey can hold its own against the ultimate of American whiskeys — Kentucky bourbon — according to Murray.
"The quality of their whiskey is simply ridiculous. The smaller independent distilleries from outside Kentucky are just not supposed to be this good," he writes of the bourbon.
Taste it for yourself — Balmorhea is easier to find than its other award-winning counterpart, Cowboy. You'll be buying it for a good cause: Garrison Brothers is donating $5 to Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation's restoration of Balmorhea State Park's pool for every bottle of Balmorhea purchased this year. The distillery introduced a philanthropic mission to help save Balmorhea two weeks after the pool's indefinite closure was announced.
Another Texas whiskey took the runner-up position in Murray's guide as U.S. Micro Whiskey of the Year: Waco's Balcones Peated Texas Single Malt.
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