Review: Ragged Branch Wheated Bourbon

RaggedBranch_MainBottleWheated bourbon can be hit or miss for me. Sometimes it’s beautiful and complex.  Otherwise, wheated bourbon can be a bit sweet and simplistic.  In the case of Ragged Branch’s new wheated bourbon, it falls somewhere in-between.

A true farm-to-bottle venture, the Virginia-based farm distillery has distilled this whisky using grains grown on its land in a small copper pot still.  And unlike a lot of craft distilleries, Ragged Branch has matured this 4-year-old wheated bourbon in full size, 53-gallon barrels instead of smaller ones.

Seeing as the distillery, founded in 2014, is only producing about a barrel a day, quality seems to be top-of-mind.

Dave Pickerell serves as the distillery’s Master Distiller, but he more or less keeps them on course a few times a year as he also oversees or consults with several other brands.  Pickerell’s a busy guy.  I’m a fan of most of his work, so I was excited to try this expression.

Bottled at 90 proof, Ragged Branch wheated bourbon comes from a mash bill of 66% corn, 17% wheat, and 17% malted barley.  That’s a higher percentage of malt typically used in a bourbon.  What does that mean for flavor?  Let’s give it a taste.

The nose is pleasant, with a sweet corn and vanilla leading the way.  There’s a slightly “green” grain note, but it’s mostly masked by a bit of spiced caramel and cinnamon.  On the palate, loads of butterscotch and vanilla fade into a touch of spice, namely cinnamon sugar.  That youngish grain note is also present here, but doesn’t hinder the tasting experience one bit.  That big butterscotch note carries over into the medium length finish.

The small distillery should be proud of this release.  Though it’s not terribly complex, it makes up with a rich and inviting butterscotch-led flavor profile.  I find it nicely balanced – not too sweet, not too spicy.  It does have a slightly young character, but doesn’t taste harsh.  At the end of the day, Ragged Branch Distillery has crafted a nice sipping whiskey.  Not too shabby for $49.99.  7/10

Raggedbranch.com

Thanks to Ragged Branch for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Review: Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 3

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Hennessy just released the third entry to their Master Blender’s Selection series.  This one is the first blend from the company’s new Master Blender, Renaud Fillioux de Gironde.  Each blend in this collection is a one-off, using a variety of eaux-de-vie that carry unique notes or ones that don’t quite fit into the flavor profile of Hennessy’s other expressions.

Master Blender’s Selection is bottled at 43%.  This third edition is comprised of 20 eaux-de-vie that are at least seven years old.  They were aged in young barrels and transferred to older barrels for further maturation.

The aromatic nose showcases figs, baking spices, and toasted nuts.  It’s inviting and perfect on an autumn evening.  On the palate, this cognac is both rich and vibrant, featuring hints of dark caramel, pecans, figs, and some spice.  The finish is long and subtly dry, with lingering dried fruit and spice.

Fantastic.  I’m thoroughly impressed and am excited to see what Fillioux de Gironde does next.  The slightly higher ABV help deliver both heavy aromas and flavor notes, as well as the lighter, more delicate ones.  And, it pairs wonderfully with a mild-to-medium bodied cigar.  This unctuous blend from Hennessy comes highly recommended.  It’d be better to buy a bottle sooner than later, because once it’s gone… it’s gone forever.  9/10

Hennessy.com

Thanks to Hennessy for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection 13-Year-Old Blenders’ Mash

The 2018 entry to Crown Royal’s annual Noble Collection is this 13-year-old Blenders’ Mash.  The whisky’s mash bill is similar to that of bourbon.  According to Crown Royal Brand Ambassador Stephen Wilson, it’s about two thirds corn and one third rye, with a touch of malted barley.  This whisky is also aged exclusively in new barrels.  Really, the only thing that keeps this from being bourbon is that it’s made in Canada and not the U.S.

Rich caramel and oak spice are the dominant notes on the nose, complemented by vanilla and floral notes. It’s very reminiscent of a typical bourbon, and that sentiment also carries over to the palate. Cinnamon frosting leads things off, followed by a burst of freshly squeezed orange juice and maple caramel chews. Some oak spice develops in the mid-palate, becoming slightly astringent. The medium-length finish is warming with hints toasted oak and caramel.

This is fantastic whisky, and my favorite of the Noble Collection releases.  Not only is 13-year-old Blenders’ Mash a great gateway into Crown Royal for bourbon fans, it’s simply fantastic.  My only issue here is the price, which is about $100 a bottle.  I can name a number of bourbons for half that price.  So, this Crown Royal blend is a bit expensive for what it delivers.  Price aside, 13-year-old Blenders’ Mash comes with a recommendation. 8.5/10

Crownroyal.com

Thanks to Crown Royal for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.