A Texas distillery has a shot at releasing the world's first organic bourbon, but the makers of a pioneering organic vodka say the spirit may not be an easy sell.
Garrison Brothers Distillery, Texas' first legal whiskey distillery, is already producing bourbon that's organic in all but name. Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey is made from organic corn, rye, wheat and barley, and their distillery in Hye meets all the criteria for organic certification. But the young business, which released its first bottles this year, hasn't yet come up with the $20,000 needed to obtain the proper paperwork.
"We've followed all the rules," owner Dan Garrison says. "But we're just a small, small operation."
The Sazerac Company, which a decade ago debuted Rain Organics Vodka, is considerably bigger, but Amy Preske, a spokesperson for Buffalo Trace - one of four distilleries operated by Sazerac - says there are no immediate plans to issue an organic bourbon.
Buffalo Trace master distiller Harlen Wheatley has called organic bourbon "a good idea," Preske says, but she wasn't sure how high the concept was ranked on his perpetual list of experiments.
Since the distillery is already an organic facility - "even when we have cockroaches, it's all organic, which is a little frustrating for our grounds crew," Preske laughs - and regularly purchases organic corn for its vodka, the hold-up may be market driven.
"People who are devoted organic followers, a lot of them don't drink," Preske says. "I don't know if (organic bourbon) would tap into the organic market, because a lot of them don't drink alcohol."
Preske says her company has struggled to promote Rain at a major trade show for organic products, and decided this year not to participate in the event. Sazerac is now exploring "another type of vodka," which would be bottled in recycled packaging and sold in Seattle and Portland.
Garrison plans to apply for organic certification "first thing," and suggests older distilleries may be misreading their customers. He believes serious drinkers will ante up $75 for a bottle of certified organic bourbon.
"They misperceive the bourbon buying public sometimes as good old boys," Garrison says.