bourbon review

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: Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2018-03 “Kentucky Chew”

Booker’s just released their third batch of 2018, aptly titled “Kentucky Chew.” The uncut and unfiltered bourbon from Jim Beam is my favorite of their regular production whiskies.

Kentucky Chew refers to how late Beam Master Distiller Booker Noe tasted his whiskey. It involves drawing a little air by smacking your lips after swirling the whiskey around your mouth. If you’ve ever tasted whiskey with current Master Distiller Fred Noe, you’ve witnessed the Kentucky Chew.

Booker’s Kentucky Chew is aged 6 years, 4 months, and 12 days, and bottled at 126.7 proof. The brand released some additional info about this batch:

This batch is made up of barrels from two production dates aged in seven different locations within four warehouses. The breakdown of the barrel locations is as follows:

  • 29% from warehouse D, floor 4

  • 42% from warehouse D, floor 6

  • 8% from warehouse I, floor 4

  • 8% from warehouse I, floor 7

  • 6% from warehouse J, floor 6

  • 2% from warehouse J, floor 7

  • 5% from warehouse N, floor 5 (7 story warehouse)

The nose carries hints of coffee cake, kettle corn, and maraschino cherries. A blast of brown sugar kicks off this unusually sweet batch of Booker’s. It is joined by vanilla pudding, wood spice, and barrel char. There’s a jolt of fruitiness on the backend. The finish is not as long as recent batches of Booker’s and retains some of the sweetness of the nose and palate.

Generally speaking, every batch of Booker’s is going to be slightly different. This new one takes the largest departure in flavor profile while still remaining truly Booker’s through and through. The sweetness is mainly provided by the typical Booker’s vanilla as well as some welcome fruitiness. I don’t mind changes this “drastic” between batches so long as 1) they are delicious, and 2) the Booker’s DNA remains. As for this batch, it comes with a solid recommendation. 8/10

Bookersbourbon.com

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

Barrell Bourbon Batch 014 Review

I get excited when a new batch of Barrell Bourbon arrives at my doorstep. The folks making this aren’t looking for consistency between batches like most big time labels. Contrarily, each batch is unique in flavor profile. That allows the blender a nearly unlimited playground to play with when creating a new batch. That, to me, is exciting.

Barrel Bourbon Batch 014 started life with some 9-year-old barrels from Batch 012. A parcel of 9-year-old bourbon barrels were added and topped off with some 14-year-old bourbon. Like all of the company’s releases, Barrell Bourbon Batch 014 is bottled at cask strength. In this case we’re talking 109.4 proof. All the whiskies in this batch were distilled in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The rich nose features hints of caramel corn, vanilla extract, sweet oak, and a touch of herbs and some floral notes. Taste-wise, there is lots going on here. Cinnamon sticks and cardamon kick things off, leading to waves of toffee, butterscotch, rye spice and fruit. Tobacco and leather develop in the mid-palate along with toasted oak and a small blast of refreshing spearmint. The finish is long with hints of caramelized fruit, spice, and oak.

I’ve gotta say this has hit a sweet spot for my palate. It’s built upon classic bourbon flavors with the fruit and spice notes dialed up a notch. Barrell Bourbon’s winning streak continues. Highly recommended! 8.5/10

Barrellbourbon.com

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