06 March 2011

"Garrison Brothers Bottling Days Blues" - Update


Sunday at noon, Satan forwarded me this photo of his brother.  He woke up with a swollen face.  So I emailed Laurel at Garrison Brothers,, and said First Brother of Satan couldn't make it, but I could.

We asked.  First Brother of Satan's wife is not responsible for this.  But if she is, we figure, First Brother of Satan likely deserved it.  I let the folks at Garrison Brothers know that I would be taking his place, and when Satan arrived on Sunday, we drank a few beers at Fredericksburg Brewing Company contemplating our taunting strategies.

Satan and I arrived at Garrison Brothers promptly at 9 am, and drove up to the distillery.  There were three other volunteers there: Sean, Shirley and Jim, a board member of the Chili Appreciation Society International, the folks who organize the annual Terlingua Chili Cook Off.  After a breakfast taco, we started filling bottles.  Dan Garrison filled the bottles, Satan corked, I stacked bottles at waxing stations, and the others started wrapping the deer skin "pigtails" around the lip of the lid and the lip of the bottle.  Ideally, this should cover the space between the cap and the glass to keep the wax out.  First you dip the end of the little pigtail in the hot wax, wrap it around the bottle, and secure the unwaxed end to the waxed.

Then we started waxing the bottles.  The trip is to spin the bottle around and around over the pot of wax to remove excess wax.  The wax cannot drip.  Makers Mark bourbon has the wax drip trademarked.  If Dan, Stephanie, Laurel or JD spotted a large drip, it wax was cut off and the bottle was dipped again.  Once the excess wax was removed we used leather stamping tools to put the iconic star on the top of the bottle, making sure to make the star was oriented the same way as it is embossed on the front of the bottle.  (If you find one that doesn't match, that might have been me.)

We were encouraged to take frequent breaks to help keep our minds from wandering, and so I made sure to take photos and I emailed them to First Brother of Satan all day long.

Stephanie was in charge of keeping track of each individually numbered bottle, mostly to keep TABC and the Feds happy.

After lunch, Dan and his Golden Retriever Whiskey took us on a tour of their under construction "kitchen", where they will cook the grains; into the now mostly empty barrel house; and back into the still house where they had just installed two large stills beside the tiny, original still.  Then it was back to dipping bottles, which lasted until about 2:30.  We did the same thing all over again on Tuesday, and everything went much smoother, now that we knew what we were doing.

Dan also said that the first release was twice as big as the first, commemorative release, and the release we were bottling was about twice as big as the first.  Their next release he said would be twice again as large.  With the addition of two new stills, seven fermenters, and large cookers, they should be able to spread the whiskey beyond the boundaries of the Hill Country.

In fact, several cases will be going to San Antonio and Austin this time.  I can't remember if he said they would be showing up in Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston, or if the whiskey fumes got to me and I imagined it.  Basically, ask your local retailer to pester their distributor.

When we left, Stephanie and Laurel asked us if we were worked too hard, and Satan said, "You don't know what we do at our real jobs."

There are a lot of great people at Garrison Brothers, and if you can beat me signing up for the next bottling, you'll have a great time.

For what it's worth, afterwards, Satan decided to give his brother his bottle of whiskey.  On Thursday, en route to a funeral in Oklahoma, I delivered the bottle to First Brother of Satan, who, besides having a more normal looking face, was excited that finally he could open his bottle from the first release.

Ironically, that bottle number is 666.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 07:19

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