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Celebrate Texas Independence Day with Texas' first bourbon

Garrison Bros. 'prerelease' bourbon is bottled in limited quantity, available only in Blanco and Gillespie counties - and pretty great.

Patrick Beach

Garrison Bros., which chest-thumpingly calls itself Texas' first legal bourbon distillery, is set to roll out a prerelease of its much-anticipated bourbon on Texas Independence Day, also known as March 2 for you Yankees.

Founder Dan Garrison has long said he wouldn't roll his stuff out until it's ready, but liquor stores in the Hill Country have been clamoring for a taste, so he's bottling 375-milliliter samples for sale only in Blanco and Gillespie counties. Suggested retail is just less than $50, and there are already waiting lists.

The prerelease is bottled at 100 proof — the flagship will be 91 — and comes in a fancy bottle, the cap hand-sealed with wax.

Since we last checked in with Garrison and his staff — two hard-working guys named Donnis Todd and Fred Koch — they've built a barrel barn, an outhouse (with actual indoor plumbing) and made other improvements. There are also plans for a separate stillhouse down the road, with 500-, 250- and 100-gallon stills. They're still relying on the copper 100-gallon still they call the Copper Cowgirl to do all the work for now.

"There's a lot of passion and labor and love that goes into these barrels," said Todd. Indeed.

So is it ready? Tiny samples from several different batches indicate the bourbon is indeed aging rapidly, thanks to the temperature fluctuations in the Hill Country. Smaller-than-typical 10-gallon barrels also are a factor in helping the stuff mature. It is smooth beyond description, with the expected spice and caramel or molasses notes. And it pleased the palate of Chuck Cowdery, author of "Bourbon, Straight" and a contributor to the Malt Advocate and other publications, who flew down from Chicago on sampling day.

As Garrison points out, every barrel has a different personality. Barrels from the same batch socked away on the same day can have different characteristics.

They're putting up 2,000 of the teaser-sized bottles, 1,000 of which will be offered for sale. Another 500 will go as thank-yous to plumbers, electricians and the like who helped the operation get up and running. The last 500 will be held back for future sampling. Every batch uses Texas ingredients and organic grains, and Garrison is big on catching and filtering precious Hill Country rainwater.

The best part of the prerelease: Even if you can't get your hands on a bottle, this means the flagship will be rolling out soon — but not until it's ready, which should be October.

pbeach@statesman.com; 445-3603

BUY THE BOURBON

Limited quantities of bourbon from Garrison Bros. Distillery will be available at these liquor stores in Blanco and Gillespie counties. They're all taking waiting lists now.

Hill Country Liquor, Blanco: 830-833-4913

Judy's Liquor, Fredericksburg: 830-997-5822

JP Liquors, Fredericksburg: 830-997-9681

Hye Spirits, Hye: 830-868-2300

Western Beverages, Fredericksburg: (830) 997-9768

Johnson City Cleaners/Arrowhead Liquors, Johnson City: 830-868-0990