Have you ever wondered what the silver crest on your favorite bottle of whiskey really means? It signifies authenticity, truth, Texas pride, the support of small Texas businesses and most of all, it means it’s made in Texas, grain-to-glass. The silver crest reads “CERTIFIED TEXAS WHISKEY”, designating each handcrafted bottle of bourbon as a member of the Texas Whiskey Trail.
So what’s the Texas Whiskey Trail, you ask? It’s an elite group of folks who guarantee that every step of the whiskey-making process—mashing, fermenting, distilling, maturing and bottling—is done in Texas and only Texas.
Spencer Whelan, the CEO at the Texas Whiskey Trail said, “The brand of Texas is bigger than the brand of Texas Whiskey. You go anywhere in the world and you show them the shape of the state and they know what it means.”
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According to the Texas Whiskey Association, “Texas stands for independence, ambition, craftsmanship, and pioneering spirits. But most of all, Texas stands for truth.” Symbols like the Alamo, the Lone Star, and the state flag are universally recognized as a part of the mythology of Texas. The Texas name carries power and meaning, and unfortunately, many people try to exploit that. Advertisers appropriate the brand of Texas to sell inferior products by putting the name and its symbols on bottles of whiskey that aren’t actually made in Texas. And because Texas Whiskey is still new and building a name for itself, these faux-Texan whiskeys cheapen the brand and taint the authenticity of the real deal.
Last year, the Texas Whiskey Association made the decision that in order for it to be considered true Certified Texas Whiskey, all of these steps must be done in the Lone Star state:
- Produced at licensed distilleries wholly located within the State of Texas.
- Produced from cereal grains (whole grain, ground grain or grain flakes) and Texas-sourced water.
- Processed in the state of Texas into a mash.
- Fermented entirely in the state of Texas.
- Distilled and barreled in the State of Texas.
- Compliant with the TTB designations of “Whisk(e)y” both in class & type.
- Matured entirely within the territorial boundaries of the State of Texas.
- Bottled within the State of Texas with no additives other than Texas-sourced water.
- Independently verified via on-site annual verification by an officer of The Texas Whiskey Association compliance team.
“Do whatever you want; be creative, be innovative, but the things that you do have to happen here because it’s the locality that makes the difference,” said Whelan.
Currently, there are fifteen Texan distilleries that make up the Texas Whiskey Trail; Garrison Brothers Distillery, Texas’ first legal bourbon distillery, is proud to be one of the founding members.
Other members include Andalusia Whiskey Company, Balcones Distilling, Crowded Barrel Whiskey Company, Deep Ellum Distillery, Ironroot Republic, Lone Elm Whiskey, MKT Distillery, Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling, Real Spirits Distilling Co., Still Austin Whiskey Company, Treaty Oak Distilling, and more members to come.
According to Garrison Brothers, “Our bourbon begins with a sweet mash made from premium #1 Texas panhandle white corn, soft red winter wheat from local Texas farms, and two-row barley. The resulting ‘white dog’ is heat-forged by the Texas sun for a minimum of three years in custom-made barrels. This harsh environment ensures that the final product has a rich and delicious flavor without the ‘bite.’ After aging in our barrel barns, the bourbon is bottled at our distillery in Hye, Texas by volunteers who give up two days to have fun, bottle our bourbon and make lasting friendships.”
For Dan and his team, bourbon is far more than just whiskey; it’s a craft, a calling, and a livelihood. And their creation has since been named “The American Micro Whiskey of the Year” by Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible, four times. They take pride in their roots, and strive to maintain the integrity of the Texas name in all that they do.
“Here in Texas, we have taken matters into our own hands by forming the Texas Whiskey Association, an organization of Texas whiskey makers who believe in authenticity, honesty, and transparency in labeling and marketing,” said Dan Garrison, the founder of Garrison Brothers.
“All Texas whiskey makers are welcome and encouraged to join the organization but to have a certified Texas whiskey they must adhere to a code that assures honesty and transparency, and they must agree to a process audit.”
So before you reach for your next bottle of bourbon, make sure it has that silver crest marking it as an official member of the Texas Whiskey Trail.