By Father John Rayls
I’m always reluctant to give an A+ because I hate to think a whiskey couldn’t get any better. However, the reality is that Garrison Brothers Cowboy Straight Texas Bourbon Whiskey 2017 is just that good. Of course, previous versions were very good as well. Regardless of your view of Jim Murray and his Whiskey Bible, he named Cowboy as American Micro Whiskey of the Year two years running. Being a natural contrarian, I simply can’t argue with the man. This is the 3rd release of 3600 Bottles. I have Bottle #41 and it was distilled and barreled in 2012 using #1 Panhandle White Corn. This release was aged 4 Years and bottled in 2017 at 137 Proof. Of course, I have my biases like all of us. I love grain to glass distilleries that produce localized expressions of bourbon and their products include big, bold, powerful bourbons. Cowboy definitely resides in the heart of my biases. This stuff is so good that it almost defies description. Many whiskey consumers believe that “all-things” bourbon is owned by the state of Kentucky. However Dan Garrison, owner and CEO of Garrison Brothers Distillery, makes a very strong counter argument. There are a few very excellent examples of bourbon that reside outside the state of Kentucky. I might even humbly suggest that after many years of seeking advice and knowledge from the Masters of Bourbon north of Texas, Kentucky could now learn a few things from Dan.
The look of Cowboy Bourbon 2017 is simply magnificent. In the glass, it’s a beautiful dark reddish brown looking like mahogany. The light struggles to penetrate the dark, opaque whiskey. There are a few highlights of dark red, brown and dark gold. As the bourbon diminishes in the glass, it takes on a color of deeply burnt copper. The legs are reluctant and short, preferring to bead up around the top of the glass as if held in suspension. The nose easily rises to meet the consumer. It’s somewhere between a medium and somewhat aggressive nose. It’s filled with ample oak and fresh leather while complimented with caramel. There are some earthy aromas over the top of some very light chocolate. No alcohol burn is noticeable, but there is some tingling. This is completely surprising considering the 137 Proof.
Consuming Cowboy neat is not as much of a challenge as might be imagined. I wouldn’t suggest it’s an easy sipper, but it is very enjoyable and very drinkable without ice or water. An immediate creamy/oily mouthfeel is present. It is a very welcoming beginning. However, you shouldn’t underestimate this bourbon. It’s big, bold and packs a punch. The flavors are driven by an omnipresence of oak and new leather (imagine new cowboy boots). This is over a nice caramel layer with a surprising appearance of campfire smoke darting in and out way in the background. The palette and finish tend to blend in a very complimentary fashion. Oak is a constant presence over the caramel throughout, but a strong and long finish kicks in eventually with white pepper. It isn’t a burning presence, but it certainly is a somewhat hot finish. It is never overwhelming. It just simply announces its presence with authority.
If you like big, bold bourbons quickly ask your bourbon supplier to get you a bottle. This stuff is going to disappear quickly. I can easily state this is one of the very best bourbons I’ve ever tasted. Unfortunately, it isn’t going to be easy on your pocket. However, it is a “must try” bourbon even if its only a once in a lifetime. The suggested retail is around $220.00. Even if you must get your friends to combine on one or two bottles, go get it done! You won’t be disappointed.