Store offers limited-edition bourbon

#Middlebury #Bourbon

Middlebury Fine Wine and Spirits owner Robert Heusted proudly holds a bottle of bourbon distilled for his store. The small barrel in which it was aged yielded 27 bottles of this 5-year-old bourbon. (Marjorie Needham photo)


A very special bourbon distilled by Garrison Brothers Distillery in Hye, Texas, now sits on the shelves at Middlebury Fine Wine in Middlebury. A raised pewter-colored star on the front of the bottle speaks for its Lone Star state of birth, and the words “Middlebury, Connecticut” tell where it found a home.

Middlebury Fine Wine owner Robert Heusted said, “I found this one very exceptional, and I am proud to have ‘Middlebury, Connecticut’ on it.” A customer who is a connoisseur of whiskeys agrees; he told Heusted he had tasted nothing like it, and that includes Van Winkle. Wikipedia says, “Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve is often regarded as one of the finest bourbons in the world, and can be difficult to find due to its very low production and high demand.”

Low production applies to this bourbon, too; the barrel yielded just 27 bottles of this wheated bourbon. A wheated bourbon is one in which wheat is used in place of rye in the traditional grain mash of corn, rye and barley. Heusted described the taste as a combination of spice notes, which come from the wood, the finish and very rich caramel flavors. He said with small barrels you get very individualistic, subtle characters in the bourbon. It was aged five years, three of those in a barrel made of fresh oak and then charred.

He explained the inside of each barrel has three layers, an inner charcoal layer that serves as a filter, a middle layer that is caramelized, and an outer layer of uncharred oak. The raw spirit, called “white dog” at this point, moves through the the filter into the caramelized layer to the uncharred layer and back out repeatedly while the bourbon is aging. The minimum aging time is 2.5 years.

Heusted said he had been approached in the past about buying spirits by the barrel, but you have to buy the whole barrel, and the barrels were so large he felt it would take years to sell the cases. Then one of his distributors mentioned the smaller barrels being distilled at Garrison Brothers.

“At that point, my interest piqued, but I thanked him and said I’d give it more consideration,” Heusted said. He wanted to run the idea by some of his customers first. Enter customer Joy Tarbox. Heusted asked her what she thought about the idea. He said her response was an enthusiastic, “You should do it.” He said, “I made the phone call the next day.”

The distillery sent four samples of bourbon to Connecticut, where Heusted spent hours carefully tasting each one and selecting the best of the four. He said choosing among four really good samples was a challenge. That was in November; the bottled product arrived in January.

The bourbon is unfiltered and uncut, and it is 139.8 proof. Information on the side of the bottle includes the corn variety, the corn harvest, the farm location, the date distilled and barreled, the barrel number and the bottle number, along with “Born and Bred in Hye, Texas.” It is priced at $139.99 for a 750-ml bottle.

Middlebury Fine Wine and Spirits is in the Hamlet at 1255 Middlebury Road in Middlebury. The telephone number is 203-527-6651.


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