Garrison Brothers is one of the most beloved and lauded craft distilleries in the U.S., and when you taste their juice it becomes really easy to understand why. Even their entry-level Small Batch Bourbon is pretty damn stellar, all things considered, and their more aged expressions are truly special.
We’re certainly not alone in thinking that Master Distiller Donnis Todd makes some serious magic happen down in Hye, Texas. So today we decided to rank all seven of their core bourbon offerings.
What makes this whiskey truly unique is that Todd isn’t “restricted by hundreds of years of bourbon heritage,” as he puts it. That means he can push the boundaries of bourbon from fermentation all the way to barreling and finishing to find only the best for us to drink. Beyond that, Texas is proving to be a great place to make whiskey, in general. There’s something about the terroir, the hot Texas sun, and the attitude of the folks working down there that seems to add an extra “wow” factor (especially when so much of what we know about bourbon is defined by Kentucky).
For this ranking, I’m going off of taste alone. I’ve been lucky enough to get to try all of these bourbon whiskeys over the last few months and again just last week. And, wow, these are some great bottles. Just for clarity, this is a ranking of their bourbons (I’ll cover their rye another time). Let’s get right into it!
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7. Garrison Brothers Small Batch
Average Price: $85
Garrison Brothers is a true grain-to-glass experience from Hye, Texas. The juice is a wheated bourbon made with local, Texas grains. That spirit is then aged under the beating heat of a hot Texas sun before the barrels are small-batched (with only 55 barrels per batch), proofed with local water, and bottled.
There’s a caramel apple note on the nose next to a bit of dry straw, worn leather, and … what feels like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. That cereal nature continues through the palate with a sugary and buttery shortbread note mingling with hints of vanilla cake frosted with lemon cream leading to a touch of orange oils. The end is very long and warm with a bit of cinnamon that ultimately leads back to the caramel apples plus just a touch of dry campfire smoke at the very end.
This is a great entry into the brand. It’s so accessible, sippable, and just … nice. In any other list, this would rank way higher, especially for a “small batch” bourbon. I really dig this on the rocks or neat, but it makes a killer cocktail.
6. Garrison Brothers Single Barrel
Average Price: $120
This single barrel expression is all about highlighting the craft distillery’s grain-to-glass process. The juice is made from a mash of 74 percent local white corn, 15 percent estate-grown soft red winter wheat, and eleven percent Canadian malted barley. That spirit is then rested for three to five years, or until the barrel is just right to be proofed and bottled with no other fussing whatsoever.
There are going to be clear notes of cedar, cherry, old leather, vanilla, caramel corn, and sour apples on the nose. The palate should edge towards that sweet cherry with a counterpoint of dry cedar next to Red Hots, angel food cake, more apple, and a touch of spicy tobacco leaf. The end is long and warming with spicy cinnamon, white sugar cubes, and a cedar box full of tobacco.
This is an “Ah-Ha!” bourbon. Everything comes together in balance on the palate and makes total sense. It’s great on the rocks or neat. Though, if you’re not afraid of mixing up a Manhattan, you’ll be in for a real treat.
5. Garrison Brothers HoneyDew
Average Price: $82
This is technically a “flavored” whiskey but it’s nothing like any other flavored bourbon you’ve ever had. This is Garrison’s Small Batch Bourbon that’s then infused with Burleson’s Texas Wildflower Honey. That means that the bourbon was transferred to a steel tank for storage. In the meantime, those empty barrels were rebuilt into smaller wooden cubes and dipped into the honey until they were completely honey-laden. Those cubes were then put into the steel vats of bourbon to infuse the juice over seven long months.
The nose opens with clear bourbon notes that worn leather, dry straw, and apple next to elderflower, ripe peaches and apricots, and a touch of raw honey. That honey note creates a bridge to the palate which is full of wildflowers, orange oils, cinnamon buns with a little pecan, and a final honey drizzle that’s almost creamy. The finish is a balance between the rich honey vibes and the clear sense of bourbon with cinnamon spice, dry pecans, and orange oils all slowly soaking into a pot full of honey.
What blows my mind is that the honey isn’t the star of the show. The really feels like the perfect balance of bourbon and honey that’s still 100 percent a whiskey and not a honey liqueur that’s cut with some bourbon. This is great any way you want to drink it. That being said, try it in a whiskey sour.
4. Garrison Brothers Laguna Madre
Average Price: $1,030
This limited edition release from last year. The whiskey is an eight-year-old bourbon (Garrison’s oldest release so far) that finished in rare French Limousin oak casks. After just under three years in small, 25-gallon new oak barrels, the whiskey was transferred to eight custom barrels and left to rest until 2021.
Rich vanilla comes through on the nose, kind of like a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda, with a hint of sassafras, hazelnuts in white chocolate, and almost chalky milk chocolate next to saltwater taffy wax paper wrappers. The palate luxuriates in that hazelnut and white chocolate as the vanilla becomes super creamy with notes of toasted coconut blending with that milk chocolate and more hazelnut for a bespoke Almond Joy vibe with a hint of warmth underneath it all. The finish is smooth AF with that vanilla cream and white chocolate combining for a soft landing.
This is the perfect dessert bourbon. It’s so soft, sweet, and bold. While you can pair this with a dessert (something like a poppy seed, marzipan, hazelnut crumble), you can also just drink that as your dessert dram and be 100 percent happy.
3. Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon
Average Price: $300
Cowboy Bourbon has become Garrison Brother’s signature bottle of whiskey. The juice from Texas is from barrels that are hand-selected for their depth and deliciousness and then aged for a few more years before being small-batched. The whiskey is then bottled as-is — with no filtering or cutting — leaving you with the purest essence of what great Texas bourbon can be in every single sip.
There’s a rush of very sharp cinnamon sticks next to a pile of wet cedar shingles and an almost Chinese hot mustard spice and miso edge that’s as baffling as it is enticing. That spicy/umami nose makes you want to dive into this sip. Once you do, you’re greeted with an apple pie overflowing with walnuts, spices, and syrupy brown sugar encased in a flaky lard pie crust as spicy plum puddings sit next to more cedar and a throughline of caramel. The end turns to velvet as a vanilla tobacco vibe arrives to calm everything down and numb your tongue with a buzz.
This is so goddamn tasty. The only reason it’s not number one or tied for it is that it’s a little hot. This is best poured over a rock or two to let it both bloom but while calming it down a touch so it’s not quite as much of a punch in the face. Or maybe that’s what you’re looking for. We’re not here to judge!
(tie) 1. Garrison Brothers Guadalupe
Average Price: $150
This whiskey is hewn from 90 30-gallon barrels of four-year-old bourbon that were transferred into 26 59-gallon Tawny Port casks for a final maturation of nearly two years. That juice was then bottled as-is after a touch of water was added.
The nose on this bursts with raspberry, blackberry, redcurrant, and blueberry all stewed with plenty of holiday spices and folded into a cobbler topped with dense buttery buttermilk biscuits. The palate leans into the spice with a focus on clove, nutmeg, and a very small whisper of anise as the berry turns more towards a fresh strawberry with dark chocolate-covered espresso beans chiming in on the mid-palate. That chocolate-bitter vibe drives towards a finish full of cinnamon-spiked dark chocolate tobacco leaves, stewed plums, and a dollop of floral honey.
This is just f*cking delicious. There’s nothing else to really say.
(tie) 1. Garrison Brothers Balmorhea
Average Price: $200
This much-lauded Texas bourbon is the highwater mark of what great whiskey from Texas can be. The juice is aged in Ozark oak for four years and then finished in oak from Minnesota for another year, all under that blazing West Texas sunshine. The bourbon is then small-batched, proofed with Texas spring water, and bottled at a healthy 115 proof.
You’re greeted with a real sense of a corn-syrup-laced pecan pie next to hazelnut bespeckled cinnamon rolls and creamy milk chocolate with a hint of vanilla tobacco lurking in the background. That chocolate drives the taste towards a mint-chocolate ice cream vibe (heavy on the chocolate part) with small dashes of holiday spices, hard toffee candies, worn leather, and a flourish of cedar boxes full of more dried tobacco leaves. The end circles back around to all that sweet and chocolatey creaminess with a final slice of perfect pecan pie on a slow fade.
It might feel like a cop-out having a tie. But these last two are just too good to pick between, sorry. This whiskey feels like the culmination of everything that’s great about Garrison Brothers. It’s just delicious from top to bottom and amazing neat or on the rocks.