DSR – NC – 002: Broad Branch Rye Fidelity
Company/Distillery: Distilled in Washington State. Aged and Bottled by Broad Branch Distillery.
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Mash Bill: 100% Prairie Rye Mash
Age Statement: 6 years old
Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45% ABV
Color: Watered down sweet tea
Purchase Price: $52.95 for 750 ml at the Distillery
Bottle Label Information:
Neck Label: Composer: Brian Morton; Distilled 2/15/2014; Moonphase: Full Moon
Front Label: “Single Barrel | Premium Cut | Non-Chill Filtered”
“100% Straight Rye Whiskey”
“Aged in Charred, New Oak Barrels”
Back Label: “Drop the Needle, Raise a Glass.”
“Rye-Fi is a compelling, soulful composition craft distilled by the prodigious Brian Morton from 100% heirloom prairie rye. At intro, notes of vanilla, nutmeg and walnut lead a touch of smoke to the nose. Onstage, the chorus of cinnamon, rich toffee, apple, and oak assumes a chewy texture that lingers through the finish. Smooth, savory, but never shy – it sounds good and tastes even better. “
“Branch out. Dive in.”
“Handmade from 100% Prairie Rye Mash. Craft Distilled in Washington State. Aged and Bottled by Broad Branch Distillery, Winston Salem NC.”
Broad Branch Distillery
Founded in 2014 by Partners Nick Doumas and John Fragakis, Broad Branch Distillery is located in the Arts District of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The distillery started with its NIGHTLAB 1.0 moonshine based on the Rank Williams recipe from Allegheny County, NC. Head Distillers Joe Tappe and Don Jenkins have since expanded the selection of products made by the distillery to their Rye Fidelity 100% rye mash, SUNGRAZER southern craft rum, SUPERCOLLIDER pear rye whiskey, NOBILIUM 3 barrel master blend, and SMASHING VIOLET craft infusion. The distillery plans to release a bourbon in 2020.
Rickhouse Ramblings was able to spend a couple of hours with distiller Don Jenkins. Don showed us the entire operation – including the grinding of grains, their massive boiler, the giant water tank holding Blue Ridge Mountain Artesian well water, the still, and the barrel storage area. After spending a few minutes with Mr. Jenkins, one thing became clear – Broad Branch Distilling sees the operation as not only an art but also a science. Mr. Jenkins was a wealth of knowledge, excited to share the science of distilling and aging with a couple of bourbon “nerds” like us. His explanation of the molecular changes in wood and the spirit during the aging process was both informative and fascinating. You can experience a brief clip here.
If you live in Winston-Salem or plan on visiting soon, we recommend you stop by Broad Branch and visit with them. The tasting room has a terrific view of the distillery and the staff is ready to share the details of each product on the menu. Check out their website here.
Tasting Date/Vessel: April 5, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass
Rickhouse Ramblings welcomes guest contributor Timothy Archer for our Broad Branch Rye Fidelity Review. Tim participated with Michael and Christian on Team OH4TB (Only Here 4 The Bourbon) in the 2018 Bourbon Chase Relay Race across Kentucky. He is expanding his bourbon collection but currently enjoys sipping on Bulleit Rye, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, and Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey.
Christian: Strong aroma of rye grain and leather immediately present. Slight hint of vanilla, brown sugar, apples and tobacco. In some ways it brings the thought of graham cracker to my mind. Addition of water brought out subtle notes of butterscotch.
Mike: Rye and honey with a little brown sugar, very granola-like aroma. Hints of raisins that give way to sweet apples. Some very light leather and cedar tones.
Tim: Before even bringing the glass to the nose, the scent of leather jumps straight out at you, as if you are getting smacked in the face with a baseball glove. Along with the subtle grass notes, it brings to mind a baseball field. The nose finishes with hints of tobacco and chocolate. Upon adding a few drops of water, pepper comes straight to the front and is overpowering, overtaking the leather, while a subtle vanilla scent snuck its way in.
Christian: Viscous mouth feel, leaves nice coating on the glass. Lots of oak come through on the palate. Almost leaves the sensation of chewing on a piece of oak in your mouth. Hints of black pepper, spice, and tobacco. Addition of water tones down some of the spice and brings out a bit more sweetness. Allows this rye whiskey to become much more approachable.
Mike: Smokey right off the bat with a cinnamon kick. Thick on the tongue with a mealy apple quality, very dry and oaky. Spicy and hot with a slight minty bitterness.
Tim: The first sip is a buttery, almost creamy mouthful that coats the tongue and the rest of the mouth. There is a strong, peppery burn to it that quickly dissipates and gives way to slightly burnt caramel. Lingering in the back of it all is a dry and smoky oak flavor. After adding water, the burn goes away, and if possible, it moves from buttery/creamy to oily on the tongue. Subtle notes of honey and vanilla begin to play over the caramel.
Christian: This had a long finish to me. Detected a hint of smoke, think BBQ smoker smoke, in the finish. Rye spice remains strong and lingers on tongue. As things dissipate, a slight hint of mint surprisingly rises to the forefront. Addition of water shortens the finish considerable and brings out the brown sugar note a little more.
Mike: Smokey with a medium finish. Finish started short, no burn then got a little spicy burn in the chest moments later.
Tim: The finish was unique, and not at all what I was expecting. The creaminess stays on the tongue, and all of a sudden I could taste mint. I had never thought about it before with whiskey, but sure enough, there was mint. On the way down, there was a slight burn at the back of the throat, and then it was gone. Water increases the smokiness of the finish, and extends the burn on the way down, but not much.
Christian: I have never tried a whiskey with a 100% mash bill before. Most of my past rye experience comes with Bulleit Straight Rye, Rittenhouse Bottle-in-Bond, and Whistlepig 12 year Old World. Broad Branch’s Rye Fidelity is bold and intense! Strong flavors of leather, oak, black pepper, and leather are dominate in all three phases of the pour. If you consider yourself a rye whiskey fan, I would recommend giving this one a try. This whiskey will likely be right up your alley. At a price point of $52, it is a little steep compared to other offerings on the shelf, however, I do understand the nature of craft distilling and the cost associated with producing this type of whiskey.
I do highly recommend stopping by the distillery and paying Don Jenkins a visit. He has a wealth of knowledge that he is willing to share regarding all of Broad Branch’s products. Maybe this rye isn’t for you, however, I am sure he can point you in the direction of one of their offerings that satisfy your palate! During our visit to the distillery I really enjoyed their NIGHTLAB 1.0 moonshine which we hope to review at another time.
Rating: 2.75 Rickhouses
Mike: I don’t have much experience with rye and this is one that packs a punch with a mash bill of 100% rye. The nose was misleading on this one, as I was not expecting the smokiness in the mouth at all. I was disappointed with the overall flavor but take that with a grain of salt as I would not consider myself a “Rye Guy”. Perhaps the taste profile is exactly what it should be as a rye. I added a splash of water and that did open up to a little sweetness but overall did nothing to change my perception, good or bad.
I really wanted to love this because of the name, not sure if the intent was there but I immediately thought of the movie High Fidelity starring John Cusack. It is one of my “Top 5” favorite movies (if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll get the reference)! I tried this on three different occasions and it grew on me each time. However, this offering from Broad Branch just wasn’t right for me, but they are doing some exciting things in downtown Winston-Salem and I am looking forward to their bourbon release. If you are in the area, stop by and do their tasting. The cost is $10 and you can sample all of their products and if rye is your thing, buy yourself a bottle!
Rating: 2.25 Rickhouses
Tim: Given that this is a local brand, I was excited to give it a try, and honored to join Christian and Mike to try this one out. I did not know what to expect with this offering, and was surprised with the outcome. Rye Fidelity served neat stands on its own, and has a clean and bright flavor profile. Where this one starts to get dicey is with the addition of water. The crispness and the brightness of the initial sip fades away as the pepper scent overtakes the pepper flavor. I would be interested in trying this in a Whiskey Smash or a Rye Old Fashioned to see how well it mixes. I may need to revisit it with an experienced bartender preparing a cocktail or two.
The price point isn’t bad considering the local craft premium to be paid. However, at $52.95, this is one that I would pass by for some of the more established offerings available. If I see Rye Fidelity at a bar or restaurant in our area, then I would probably order one neat, but it is not one that I would keep for at home consumption.
Rating: 2.5 Rickhouses
Conclusion: Broad Branch distillery has a lot of really cool and exciting things going on. If you stop by and pay them a visit, they can offer you all varieties of spirits from rye whiskey and rum to moonshine and very soon bourbon. Rye Fidelity definitely packed a punch. Intense and bold flavors of leather, rye, black pepper, and oak all showed strong in this offering. Since 100% rye is not an offering you will come across a lot on the shelf at your local retailer, it’s worth giving this one a try. If you stop by, make sure to tell distiller Don Jenkins we said hello!