Coming off a bit of an extended break from this blog, I’m happy to kick things back off with a look at Ragged Branch’s offerings. Located near Charlottesville, Virginia, Ragged Branch was helped along by the late Dave Pickerell. It’s a farm-to-bottle distillery, growing, harvesting, and milling their own wheat, rye and corn. On the occasion of their recent award wins at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC), let’s get started with a look at their bourbon lineup.
Ragged Branch Wheated Bourbon – Louisiana Reserve
Let’s start off with Ragged Branch’s easy-sipping Wheated Bourbon. This Louisiana Reserve is batched from select barrels available only in Louisiana. Ragged Branch Wheated Bourbon is also fresh off its Double Gold win at the 2020 SFWSC. It’s bottled at 90 proof and aged for more than four years. The nose is sweet and approachable, hinting at caramelized sugar, vanilla, and orange peel. There’s a bit of freshly baked brioche. Taste-wise, toasted sweet wheat bread sprinkled with cardamon is complemented by a faint oak note. The semi-sweetness initially encountered becomes a bit dry on the medium-length finish, leaving a lingering sweet oak and caramel notes. Compared to other popular wheated bourbons, Ragged Branch is more grain forward. I like this one. It’s light and easy going.
Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon – Louisiana Reserve
Like its wheated brethren, Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon sees at least four years in the barrel before bottling. This expression won Silver at the 2020 SFWSC, and for good reason. The nose carries a deep caramel base note complemented by hints of citrus, and spice. The soft, caramel-filled entry sees a buildup of baking spices. Buttered rye bread appears mid-palate. Though the rye grain is prominent, it’s not sharp. The medium-long finish sees a slight minerality and spiced caramel. The traditional corn/rye/barley mash bill here adds more complexity than the wheated expression. That extra kick of spice makes for quite an enjoyable sip (and fantastic Old Fashioned).
Ragged Branch Double Oaked Wheated Bourbon
This single barrel wheated bourbon fully matures for at least four years in a new, charred oak barrel. It is then transferred to another new barrel with a higher char level for a short finishing period. The resulting whiskey is bottled at 45% abv and features a darker, richer flavor. Dark caramel and brown sugar lead the nose, followed by hints of roasted marshmallow, cherries, and nougat. The palate closely follows the nose with layers of rich caramel, baking spice, dark fruit, and slightly dry oak. The long finish carries toasted maple, caramel, and spice. There’s so much more going on here, thanks to the finishing process in a new barrel. All the notes in the wheated bourbon are amplified and enriched. Fantastic stuff!
Ragged Branch Double Oaked Bottled-In-Bond Signature Bourbon
Bottled-in-bond? Check. Single barrel? Check. Double Oaked? Check. This Ragged Branch expression certainly seems to have a lot going for it on paper. How does it fare in the glass? Like a dark, rich dessert… that’s how. The nose features dark caramel, cocoa, cinnamon, and burnt orange peel. The higher proof gives this whiskey a stronger start on the palate. Dark chocolate-covered cherries are paired with vanilla cream and caramel-drizzled cinnamon cake. The back palate sees the spice notes ramp up more, as well as the introduction of toasted oak. The long finish sees a lingering caramel-tinged cognac-like note. Like I said – a dessert whiskey. I can see why both Double Oak expressions won gold at the 2020 SFWSC. It’s packed to the gills with big, bold flavors. This is easily my favorite of the bourbon offerings.
Thanks to Ragged Branch for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.