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Ragged Branch Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Posted on by Eric Burke

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank Ragged Branch Distillery for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. 

Right as the new year was beginning, I received an email from the folks at Ragged Branch Distillery asking if I would review their bourbon. I, having no idea who Ragged Branch Distillery was, said yes. Because, heck, you never know if it will be good until you try it. 

So who is Ragged Branch Distillery? I've never met them, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that Ragged Branch is run by very enthusiastic, very detail oriented people. Most samples, if they come with any information, come only with a PR card or flyer. These came with sell sheets, photos, and a six-page history of the company. 

I was ecstatic. I love it when producers tell me way more information than I thought I wanted to know. I love the enthusiasm. And I love the transparency. I'm not going to reproduce their entire story for you, but here are the high points. 

Ragged Branch began like many craft distilleries do, with a conversation amongst friends over drinks. It was 2009 and the friends, all of whom worked in the home building industry, were suffering from the effects of the downturn in the housing market. But, as it sometimes does, a stretch of bad luck and a few drinks turned into inspiration. From there, the friends enlisted the services of David Pickerell to help teach them just what it would take to get up and running, and how to, you know, actually make bourbon. 

But it wasn't smooth sailing. There were a few hiccups along the way. One, involving a snowstorm, stranded Mr. Pickerell at their house for four days. Another involved a mixup with a license application and quite a few agents of the Virginia ABC. Luckily that last one was worked out right away.

Ragged Branch is truly a farm-to-table operation. The grain used to create the bourbon is grown on land owned or leased by the distillery. They grow, grind, mash, distill, age and bottle right there on the farm. The bourbon is aged in new 53-gallon barrels with a #3 char. Spent mash is fed to the beef cattle they raise. 

Fast forward eight years and the bourbon, and the beef, is finally on sale. No, it's not an eight-year-old bourbon. But it isn't sourced, and it is straight. And both of those are to be commended. 

But how does it taste?

Ragged Branch Distillery Wheated Bourbon

Purchase Info: The producer kindly provided this 100mL sample for review purposes. It retails for $48.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Virginia ABC stores.

Details: 45% ABV. Made from a mash of 66% corn, 17% wheat and 17% malted barley.

Nose: Earthy with cinnamon candies, fresh cut lumber, dried fruit and creamed corn.

Mouth: Nice thick mouthfeel. Spicy and sweet with honey, allspice, cornbread and dried fruit. 

Finish: On the longer side of medium. It starts sweet and spicy but that fades into a warm drying sensation. 

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Thoughts: When I nosed this, I thought that it was going to taste very young. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the youth was tempered in the mouth. It's youth wasn't expressed as "new-makey" but instead as cornbread and a spicy brashness. Yes, it tasted young, but it is a very well put together bourbon and would be a great pickup for those whose palates run toward young bourbon. I like it, but for me, it still tastes a bit young to be a regular drinker. It would make a nice change of pace though.  

Ragged Branch Distillery Rye Bourbon

Purchase Info: The producer kindly provided this 100mL sample for review purposes. It retails for $48.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Virginia ABC stores.

Details: 45% ABV. Made from a mash of 66% corn, 17% rye and 17% malted barley.

Nose: Green apple, mint and rye spice. After a bit of time dried grain and buttered popcorn notes appear.

Mouth: Follows the nose with green apple, mint and rye spice. There is also some warm cinnamon candy as well. 

Finish: Warm, spicy and of medium length. I'm getting cinnamon candies and waves of spicy heat. 

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Thoughts: I am legitimately impressed by this bourbon. Most of the time when reviewing a craft bourbon you need to use words that show that it still tastes like a young bourbon. Recommending it to people that like that. This one doesn't need any of that. This is good. Period. I've got a trip this summer that will take me through Virginia. A bottle of this one is coming home with me. And I have a feeling it will not last long in the house.


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