DSR – VA – 005: Ragged Branch Rickhouse Ramblings Reserve
Company/Distillery: Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Mash Bill: 68% Corn, 16% Wheat, and 16% Malted Barley
Age Statement: 4 years, 6 months, and 8 days
Proof/ABV: 123.52 Proof/61.76% ABV
Color: A deep rich brown, like freshly steeped tea, with slight hue of red/burgundy.
Purchase Price: $64.15 from NC ABC store July 2020; 750 ml
Bottle Label Information:
“RB | Ragged Branch”
“Rickhouse Ramblings Logo”
“Independently Hand Crafted”
“Ragged Branch Double Oaked Wheated Barrel Proof”
“Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey”
“Rickhouse Ramblings Reserve”
“Special Barrel Selection | Barrel 1149 | Bottle 28”
“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.”
“Christian Griffith and Michael Perry of Rickhouse Ramblings visited our distillery in June 2020 to hand select a barrel. At Rickhouse Ramblings, they are on a journey to taste and review the finest whiskey and bourbon that VA, TN, NC, and SC has to offer. After tasting through a selection of our Double Oaked Wheated Bourbon barrels, they chose barrel number 1149. This barrel was put into its original barrel on 12/31/15 and then Double Oaked on 4/12/18. Rickhouse Ramblings would like to thank their family, friends, and supporters that made this Ragged Branch Barrel Program possible.”
“Distilled, Aged, and Bottled by Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC, Charlottesville, Virginia
Ragged Branch Distillery
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 were home-builders and developers who were experiencing first-hand the fallout 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.
Mr. Pickerell was instrumental in helping to launch Ragged Branch. He provided Mr. Toomy with 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 their Charlottesville, VA farm, Toomy and his partners decided that making Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey, alongside 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 the 7th of July in 2014, Ragged Branch produced their first mash under the supervision of Dave Pickerell. Four days later, the fermented mash was run through their new still and Ragged Branch made its inaugural 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 Mr. Pickerell to be their Master Distiller, as they have continued to run the operation just as he taught them.
Double Oaked Wheated Barrel Proof Rickhouse Ramblings Reserve
In June 2020, Mike and Christian, along with the first ladies of Rickhouse Ramblings, made the trek from Winston Salem, NC to Ragged Branch Distillery in Charlottesville, VA. The goal for the day was to select a barrel that would meet the demands of the Rickhouse Ramblings duo and their followers. Alex Toomy and his son, Josh Toomy, led the group through the tasting of about 10-15 different barrels. Everyone kept circling back to barrel #1149–a Double Oaked Wheated Barrel Proof Bourbon. This particular selection was distilled and barreled December 31, 2015 where it rested until it was placed in its second oak barrel on April 12, 2018. The whiskey was then bottled for Rickhouse Ramblings on July 8, 2020. This particular barrel produced 222 bottles at 61.76% ABV/123.52 Proof, most of which sold before hitting the shelves of the local ABC Store.
Tasting Date/Vessel: September 20, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass
Christian: To start, I take a nice strong sniff straight from the bottle. A fantastic aroma of fresh tobacco permeates right into my nostrils. In my Glencairn glass, I am surprised at how little ethanol is present on the nose, especially given the high proof point. A quick swirl in my glass opens up an abundance of oak, walnuts, and dark chocolate. As I continue to swirl and nose in deeper, I get hints of dates and possibly figs. It reminds me of an elegant and rich dessert. Adding water into the mix really ramps up the chocolate aroma, think cocoa powder, to this bourbon. A little more sweetness from brown sugar becomes apparent as I continue to nose in deeper. The rich oak aroma remains but is toned down slightly.
Mike: Brown sugar soaked cherries initially hit the front of my nose. A swirl in the glass releases an aroma of dark cocoa powder. As the pour settles down from the gentle swirl, bouquets of freshly cured tobacco leaves begin to emerge. After letting this pour sit a little, an interesting thing happens–an aroma of dried figs begins to develop.
Christian: As I take my first official sip of this bourbon, I get a nice velvety mouth feel. On the tip of my tongue, it is very sweet. The longer I taste, I get beautiful tastes of tobacco and oak, with a light hint of chocolate sneaking in. As I allow the spirit to linger, I start to pick up some cinnamon and cloves. This bourbon is so sweet and flavorful yet different from many other mass bourbon offerings available on the market – which is a good thing. When adding water, the mouth feel softens a bit. The oak flavor remains present in the forefront, but hints of chocolate syrup and cherries really moves forward. The flavor profile of tobacco from the nose really moves forward.
Mike: Sweet on the tip of the tongue then the mild bitterness of dark chocolate develops in the middle. A pastry-like mouthfeel emerges that reminds me of frosted chocolate fudge Pop-Tarts. Moving to the back of the tongue, ground cinnamon strikes the palate then finishes with a very subtle sweetness of cinnamon. This sweetness is reminiscent of the cinnamon sugary powder on a stick of Big Red gum.
Christian: There is no doubt this bourbon is 123.52 proof. The finish is hot and long. A very nice hug is present. The bourbon is dry but delivers an awesome punch of flavor on the back end. I notice a bit of cinnamon, dark chocolate, and perhaps a hint of dark roasted coffee. As the flavors linger you can really taste the figs or dates flavor come through. When I added water the bourbon still lets you know it is present. The heat remains and the hug is still pronounced, but in a good way. Tobacco and leather really stick around on the palate.
Mike: Long and pronounced finish, which one would expect from a barrel proof whiskey. The frosted chocolate fudge Pop-Tarts flavors linger then as it begins to diminish a peppery burn grows. An essence of roasted coffee beans resides, almost as if I’ve placed a single bean on the middle of my tongue, a satisfying mild toasted and oily bitterness.
Given that this bottle was a private selection made by Rickhouse Ramblings, we have decided not to give this selection an official Rickhouse Rating. We obviously think it is an amazing whiskey. We would love to hear your thoughts though – sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!
Christian: I know I am incredibly biased, but this an absolutely fantastic barrel proof wheated bourbon! It brings a complexity with it that really changes nicely throughout the entire sipping experience. When enjoying this bourbon, the thought of a humidor with a nice selection of cigars comes to mind. The first thing you notice is the smell of fresh tobacco. Then all of a sudden, you get a hint of wood that is just magnificent. I love this pour neat, but also believe it holds up nicely to an added bit of water or a cube of ice. I have even tried it in an Old Fashioned and cannot get over how much it tastes like fall in a glass. The first image that comes to my mind is a bag of cinnamon pine cones that show up this time of year in the grocery store – just delightful.
Special thanks to Alex and Josh for taking care of us on our visit. From the amazing fresh beef lunch from the farm to the unbelievably awesome touch of the personalized label on the bottle. You guys truly run a first class organization. Rickhouse Ramblings is proud to be a part of your family! Cheers!
Mike: Just like Christian, I am very biased about this bourbon, for obvious reasons. Because I can’t adequately put into words how I feel about this bourbon, I love it! It is complex in every facet. As a barrel proof bourbon, it is a fiery yet soft sipping. This can be enjoyed neat, proofed down with water or an ice cube, or stand out in cocktail without overshadowing other elements. This really captures everything I covet in a whiskey. Even though I purchased several of my own bottles, I really wish I’d purchased more!