View Full Version : A good rant by Dan Garrison

02-27-2013, 14:15

Here in Texas we are a proud folk and like to buy things made in Texas. It seems some clever (dishonest?) folks like to claim their Vodka, Bourbon, whiskey, etc is made here without it being so. They take advantage of the lax TTB enforcement and make all kind of claims. I ranted, preached and even filed complaints with the TTB myself. Dan does a good job in pointing some of this out in his latest newsletter. I know for most on this site, we understand whiskey class and types, but the generally public does not. You can read full story at above link; here is the part I like:

Enough with the Brown Vodka

If you’ve been to our distillery in Hye, you’re probably aware that we refer to “blended whiskies,” “spirit whiskies” and bulk-bottled-bourbon as brown vodka. (Admittedly, I stole the term from Chuck Cowdery … because it’s such a good one.)
The reason for our disdain is that the government’s standards of identity state that “spirit whiskey” can be a combination of as little as 5% actual whiskey. The other 95% of the liquid is grain neutral spirit, also known as vodka. “Blended whiskies” only have to contain 20% straight whiskey. The remainder? You guessed it.
Worse still, if a bottler is not happy with the resulting color or taste of their artificial spirit, they can add wood chips, red dye #7, caramel coloring, or vanilla flavoring and still call it whiskey! When you put this all in a bottle and shake it up, what you have is brown vodka. (It’s perfectly legal by the way: Many of the “Texas whiskies on store shelves today were cooked, fermented, distilled and barreled in Canada, Indiana or Kentucky. The faux craft distillers just add water to it and bottle it.)
But some people like brown vodka. And more power to them. In fact, since we started our little operation in 2005, today there are now dozens of “craft whiskies” on the shelves at Texas liquor stores that claim to be made all over America. Some of these fine products are actually made (cooked, mashed, distilled, barreled and bottled) in Texas. Others are simply bottled here.

I think some of the finest craft distilled spirits in the world are being made right here in Texas. But it’s very difficult for the small quality-focused distillers like Railean Distillery and Ranger Creek Distillery and Brewery to compete with the mass producers who buy spirits in bulk and just slap a “Made in Texas” label on it.
It’s not becoming of me to criticize other brands by name and I’m not going to do it here. But I do want to offer some advice to those who actually give a shit about what goes into their body. There are ways to tell the difference between brown vodka and real bourbon.

--Study the producer’s statement. By law, all bottles must feature what’s called a “producer’s statement” somewhere on the bottle. The language of these statements normally reads “Distilled and bottled by Rocky Spring Distillery in Rocky Spring, Tennessee” or “Produced and bottled by Old Goat Distillery in Goat, Kentucky.”Does the producer’s statement say “made in Texas” or “Texas made?” Does it say “distilled in Texas” or does it say “produced” or “bottled” in Texas. These words should provide a clue. If they are making their own juice from scratch, you can bet your ass they’ll want to tell you so.
--Hold a bottle of that whiskey up to the light, preferably next to a bottle of Garrison Brothers Straight Bourbon. Is it yellow? Is it pale? Does one bottle look like it might be brown vodka? If it does, it probably is.
--Visit the distillery that makes the spirit and watch them make it. If they let you in, ask questions. If all they show you is a bottling line, then they may have already answered your question. Just maybe, that’s all they really do.

Balcones Winston
02-27-2013, 14:31
He's absolutely right, the whiskey profiteers do a lot to undermine the efforts of those who are legitimately making their own juice. And mostly so with less than desirable products. Hopefully the message catches on.

I wonder if Dan is at the Spec's event next week. I'd love to see him call out the other guys in person :D

I hope he didn't forget about Balcones? We make everything from mash to glass, too ;)

02-27-2013, 14:49
I hope he didn't forget about Balcones? We make everything from mash to glass, too ;)

I've been to Balcones and I'll confirm they make everything from scratch - mashing, fermenting and distilling their own juice.

Balcones Winston
02-27-2013, 14:57
We even made the distillery from scratch. What was an old welding shop was transformed into what it is now with our bare hands. Straight down to the copper pot stills, hand hammered and welded together by Chip himself.

It's accidentally become a big part of how we make our whisky. Our equipment was assembled to make our spirit, and there's a specificity that comes along with that much like an artist's tools.

02-27-2013, 15:01
Here are so offenders who imply their products are made in Texas, but the whiskey inside was definitely not fermented and distilled in Texas:

1835 Texas Whiskey
TX Blended Whiskey from F&R Distilling Company
Rebecca Creek Fine Texas Spirit Whiskey
Yellow Rose Straight Rye Whiskey

As far as "texas" made Vodka goes, has anybody ever seen a fermenter tank operating at Tito's? I did not think so.

Balcones Winston
02-27-2013, 15:09
To be fair, most vodka in the world is rectified GNS

Balcones Winston
02-27-2013, 15:11
And if you redistill it one more time, you have the privilege of putting "Distilled by" on the label apparently

Balcones Winston
02-27-2013, 15:13
Wade, can you still edit the post? The black text is hard to read. Highlight everything and hit the button with the two A characters marked out with an X in red

02-27-2013, 15:24
What bugs me the most is the "Texas Crown" stuff. I have stopped people at least a few times and pointed out the "Canadian Whiskey" line on the label. I'm not sure if I'm bothered more by the cheap marketing gimmick of Texas Crown, or the lack of attention paid by my fellow Texians.

02-27-2013, 16:22
I've been to Balcones and I'll confirm they make everything from scratch - mashing, fermenting and distilling their own juice.

Captured and created their own yeast? Texas yeast, it must be better.:grin:

Balcones Winston
02-27-2013, 16:36
Captured and created their own yeast? Texas yeast, it must be better.:grin:
We use a variety of yeasts from all over the world.

Firestone & Robertson did actually harvest a wild Texas yeast for their bourbon. Due out 2014...

02-27-2013, 18:08
To be fair, most vodka in the world is rectified GNS

You're too generous. A more true statement would omit "rectified." Although rectification can mean something as simple as filtering, plenty of vodka goes from tank or tote to bottle, with water to reduce it to proof, and no other processing. I also maintain that the redistillation of commercial GNS does nothing for the end product. It's a gimmick to support a 'made here' claim.

03-09-2013, 10:43
i was actually in houston last week and had the extreme pleasure to try a couple jiggers of Garrison's Bourbon. awesome stuff and much enjoyed. it had a neat little twist in the flavor - reminded me of bison grass. well done.

and my only question is when will it be available in California?