whiskey 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: Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye

The latest Basil Hayden expression, Two by Two Rye, is not a rye whiskey. I can see where a consumer might get confused, thinking he or she is buying a rye whiskey. Simply deleting the word “rye” and naming this Basil Hayden’s Two by Two would have been a more direct approach.

What’s inside is interesting. It’s a blend of straight whiskies: 5-year-old rye, 7-year-old “high rye” , 13-year-old bourbon, and 7-year-old bourbon. The bourbon and rye whiskey blends aren’t new, but are delicious when made well. (See High West’s Bourye and Wild Turkey’s Forgiven.) In keeping with the Basil Hayden tradition, Two by Two Rye is bottled at 40% abv. This whiskey retails for $44.99.

The nose is nice, if a bit muted and a little young, featuring spiced caramel, slightly ‘green’ rye grain, and a touch of burnt sugar. There is more of the same on the palate. Hints of caramel and waxy vanilla meet some baking spice. That green note from the nose is here as well, but in a less upfront way. A bit of toasted cedar develops right before the spicy and slightly dry finish.

I’ve gotta say – this is the first Basil Hayden release that disappointed me. It came across as a bit thin and sort of boring. The thin part had to do with the whiskey’s low proof. That hasn’t hindered the brand’s other expressions, but here it keeps robustness on a very short lease. As for the boring part… the whiskey is not bad. It’s just… okay. There’s nothing exciting here. The aforementioned Forgiven and especially Bourye are big, spicy, and robust, which is what a bourbon and rye blend should be. As for Two by Two Rye, a better choice would be any other Basil Hayden expression. Go for the reliable Basil Hayden’s bourbon with its high rye mash bill, or even the fruitiness of Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye. 6/10

Basilhaydens.com

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

Review: Michter’s 10-year-old Rye Whiskey (2018)

Michter’s has released their coveted 10-year-old rye whiskey for the first time in more than a year.  The single barrel expression consistently ranks among my favorite rye whiskies. Just like the last time, Michter’s 10-year-old rye barrels were selected by Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson and approved by Master Distiller Pamela Heilmann.

Though Michter’s is currently distilling at their new distillery (a place I really need to visit), the stocks that make up this whiskey came through contract distilling.  That’s different from sourcing whiskey.  Contract distilling means making your whiskey at an existing distillery to your specifications (mash bill, unique yeast strain, etc).

Bottled at 46.4% ABV, or 93.8 proof, Michter’s 10yr rye undergoes the company’s “signature filtration.”  My sample bottle came from barrel no. 18E559.

The nose on this whiskey always does it for me – dark, rich caramels with an abundance of baking spices like nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and cardamom, as well as a bit of toasted oak.  On the palate, the whiskey doesn’t disappoint.  Layers and layers of dark caramel wash over the front palate as those lovely spice notes ramp up in intensity.  A little bit of toasted rye is present, as is a touch of vanilla pod.  A dark chocolate note appears mid-palate, along with a touch of leather and oak.  The finish features more caramel alongside toasted coconut,  dried fruit, and spice.

Michter’s has another winner on their hands with this expression.  It keeps in line with a richness found in a lot of Michter’s whiskies.  Decadent is a great descriptor here.  Quite lovely.  A bottle runs a suggested retail price of $160, and I think it’s worth every penny.  Nicely done.  9/10

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

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