DSR – VA – 002: Ragged Branch Wheated Bourbon Double Oaked
Company/Distillery: Ragged Branch Distillery
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Mash Bill: 67% Corn, 17% Wheat, 16% Malted Barley
Age Statement: Greater than 4 years; 4 years in new American white oak barrel then transferred into a second #4 char new American white oak barrel for at least 1 additional year.
Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45% ABV
Color: Dark Rich Amber
Purchase Price: Received as a gift. MSRP approximately $56.00
Bottle Label Information:
Neck Label: RB – Ragged Branch
Front Label: “Independently Hand Crafted”
“Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey”
“Double Oaked Twice Barrelled”
“Barrel 1035; Bottle 295”
Back Label: “Ragged Branch is nestled in the foothills of the Ragged Mountains near Charlottesville, VA.”
“As a farm-to-bottle distillery, we grow, harvest, and mill wheat and corn to craft our homegrown bourbon recipe. We proudly distill, age, and bottle our bourbon on site, and feed the residual mash to our cattle. We honor our late master distiller, Dave Pickerell, by utilizing the recipes and distilling methods he taught to us – including aging every drop of our bourbon in charred white oak barrels for over 4 years. “
“Savor the smooth, rich flavor of Ragged Branch Virginia Straight Bourbon.”
“Distilled, Aged, and Bottled by Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC, Charlottesville, Virginia.”
Ragged Branch Distillery, located in Albemarle County, Virginia, was an idea cultivated by founder Alex Toomy and several of his friends as they sat at his farm and discussed future life plans after the 2008-2009 housing crisis. Toomy and his friends where home-builders and developers who were experiencing first hand the fall out of the housing market. It was during one of these gatherings that someone mentioned, jokingly, the idea of becoming moonshiners and making whiskey. This idea took root in Toomy’s soul and he decided, along with partners Chris Sarpy and Russell Nance, to take the leap and reach out to the Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark, Dave Pickerell.
Pickerell was instrumental in getting Ragged Branch off the ground. He provided Toomy the confidence he needed to start a whiskey distillery and even assisted him in laying out a plan to bring this idea to fruition. After a 4 day visit from Pickerell on the farm, Toomy and partners decided that making Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey alongside of Pickerell was an achievable goal.
After several years of laboring to build the distillery, growing the grains (assisted by partner Kevin Engel), and awaiting their Vendome Copper and Brass Works still, Ragged Branch was ready to begin making whiskey in July 2014.
On July 7, 2014 Ragged Branch produced their first mash under the supervision of Pickerell. Four days later the fermented mash was run through their new still and Ragged Branch made its first run of whiskey. They now run the still, just as Dave Pickerell taught them, 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, producing an average of 25 barrels per a month. Even today, Ragged Branch considers the late Pickerell to be their Master Distiller as they have continued to run the operation just as he taught them.
Wheated Bourbon Double Oaked
Ragged Branch Wheated Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey is distilled using grains grown on the farm. After distilling, Ragged Branch ages it wheated whiskey for 4 years in new American white oak barrels on site at the distillery. After this first round of aging, the whiskey is then dumped into a new #4 char American white oak barrel for at least 1 additional year of aging. This process takes a solid Virginia straight bourbon whiskey (one that just won Double Gold at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition) and makes this outstanding Double Oaked offering. Double Oaked was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition as well.
Tasting Date/Vessel: March 22, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass
Christian: Punch of sweetness in the nose. Brown sugar bomb with a slight hint of peaches. Detect a very slight nose of tobacco. Addition of water ramps up the sweet brown sugar aromas in the nose.
Mike: Leather on first pass that gave way to light floral notes. Dried fruit and plums on second pass with some subdued hints of apples. The addition of water sweetened the nose bringing out notes of brown sugar, very reminiscent of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.
Christian: Mouth feel was a little thinner than I expected given the viscosity seen on the glass. Very sweet but pleasant taste on the palate reminding me of fresh baked bread and baking spices. A slight hint of raw honey is present as it slides toward the back of your mouth. Addition of a few drops of water brings out flavors of caramel and brown sugar. Reminds me of my Grandmother’s homemade caramel sauce…YUM!
Mike: Medium body with a honey sweet mouth feel. Very candy-like with a hint of brown sugar. The addition of water only softened the overall taste. Very smooth and approachable.
Christian: Short finish with notes of dried cherries and walnut. Transitions to hints of floral. Slight bitterness as it dissipates but not in an off-putting way. No burn in the mouth but warming sensation as it moved further down the throat.
Mike: Initially short and nutty with a slight hint of smokiness. Virtually no burn in the mouth or throat that gave way to a pleasant burn in the chest moments later.
Christian: This is an exceptional product. Robust flavors and character throughout the nose, mouth, and finish. Drinks and tastes like a higher proof bourbon, a characteristic I really enjoy. I’ve experienced the standard Ragged Branch Virginia Straight Wheated Bourbon and really enjoyed that offering, however, the Double Oaked version really ramps up the aromas and flavors nicely. Loved it!
Rating: 4 Rickhouses
Mike: I’ve experienced one other ‘double oaked’ product and initially was not impressed. I was a little hesitant coming into this review for that reason. I was very pleasantly surprised! This is an outstanding expression from Ragged Branch. I currently have an open bottle of their standard wheated bourbon and the Double Oaked expression is substantially better.
I’ve said this in other reviews about other products and it is just a personal preference of mine, but I am really curious how this would taste at a higher proof or at barrel proof.
Rating: 3.5 Rickhouses
Conclusion: The bottom-line is – we LOVED this bourbon. Ragged Branch really has some excellent products in Charlottesville. Given the Double Oaked age of over 5 years and high quality, we feel the asking price of $56 is reasonable. After a discussion with Mr. Toomy, we understand that they have done some barrel picks with this Wheated Bourbon Double Barrel at barrel proof. That is an offering we would love to get our hands on in the near future. This is a product that we will keep on our shelves for both personal enjoyment and to share with friends. Our final score of 4 rickhouses was achieved by taking Christian’ score of 4 and Mike’s score of 3.5 for an average score of 3.75. We rounded that up to a straight 4 rickhouse whiskey. Give it a try, we think you will really enjoy it.
Special thanks to Ragged Branch Founder Alex Toomy for spending time with us through email and phone as we prepared for this review. His openness and willingness to work with us was greatly appreciated.