This story originally appeared on Marfa Public Radio.
Every state has its treasures: California has its beaches. Louisiana its jazz clubs. Kentucky its bourbon.
Legally though, bourbon doesn’t have to be made in Kentucky to be bourbon. It’s all about the production. As long as its made from a grain mixture that’s at least 51 percent corn, ages in barrels for two years, and meets some specific proof specifications, you can slap a bourbon label on it.
Garrison Brothers Distillery, south of Austin, has been doing just that for 10 years. Master Distiller Donnis Todd explains how the company got its start.
“How did Dan and Charlie Garrison know that they could make a Texas straight bourbon whiskey? Dan spent four or five years traveling from Austin to Kentucky, taking the bourbon trail,” he says.
The Garrison Brothers Distillery can make bourbon because of where it’s located. The Hill Country sits on a limestone shelf. Limestone provides soft fresh water that doesn’t have minerals like iron that taint the bourbon’s taste. Many major Kentucky distilleries are also on top of limestone. Todd makes clear though that what he makes is its own product.
“We’re very proud Texans, we would never make a bourbon and call it Kentucky bourbon,” Todd says. “We’re damn sure gonna call it Texas Bourbon.”
Small batch distilleries have sprouted up in Austin, San Antonio, and Waco. These producers are right on time. According to Forbes magazine, demand for bourbon is soaring.