Review: Ragged Branch Wine Barrel Finished

DSR – VA – 006: Ragged Branch Wine Barrel Finished

Company/Distillery: Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia

Mash Bill: 68% Corn, 16% rye, and 16% malted Barley

Age Statement: NAS

Proof/ABV: 94 Proof/47% ABV

Color & Viscosity: Aged copper or Mahogany, absolutely beautiful color. Legs develop quickly and appear thin and delicate.

Purchase Price: $73.70 for 750 ml bottle from the distillery gift shop; The bottled used for this review was sent to us by the distillery – no strings attached and with no expectations.

Bottle Label Information:

Front Label

“Independently Hand Crafted”

“Ragged Branch Wine Barrel Finished”

“Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Virginia Wine Barrels”

“Batch 1; Bottle 693”

Back Label

“Ragged Branch is nestled in the foothills of the Ragged Mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia.”

“As a farm-to-bottle distillery, we grow, harvest, and mill grain to produce our spirit 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 us.”

“After consulting with New Orleans Bourbon Fest co-founder Tracy Napolitano, we’ve hand selected barrels of our Signature Bourbon, already matured in their original charred American white oak barrel, then transferred into and finished to perfection in wine barrels from Veritas Winery in Afton, Virginia. The result is special, and we know you’ll appreciate the unique flavors of this truly handcrafted Virginia product.”

“Distilled and Botted by Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC, Charlottesville, Virginia”

Distillery Background

Ragged Branch

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. 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.

Visit Ragged Branch‘s website to find out more about their distillery and other product offerings. Feel free to also check out our review of Ragged Branch’s Double Oaked Wheated Bourbon and our private barrel selection – Double Oaked Wheated Rickhouse Ramblings Reserve.

Veritas Winery

Andrew and Patricia Hodson founded Veritas Winery in 1999, upon purchasing Saddlebrook Farm in Afton, Virginia. Veritas is a true family run business with daughters Emily Pelton (Lead Winemaker) and Chloe Watkins (Winery Project Manager), along with their son George Hodson (General Manager and CEO) all working together for the success of the winery. The philosophy at Veritas Winery is “to make wine with the classic, old-world principles of viticulture and vinification, at the same time using state of the art technology to capture varietal and regional character.” Check out more on the winery and their offerings on their website.

Ragged Branch Wine Barrel Finished

Ragged Branch Wine Barrel Finished is a limited release offering. The team at Ragged Branch take their Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey, aged approximately 5 years in new American white oak barrels, and age it in a second barrel made of French oak. These particular French oak barrels used for this process held red wines produced by Veritas Winery in Afton, Virginia. This limited release by Ragged Branch is truly a one-of-a-kind offering.

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: October 28, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass and then with a few drops of distilled water.


Christian: What a fantastic nose this glass of bourbon possesses! Upon my first pass nosing this glass, I get a very pleasing fruitiness. A second whiff of my glass produces a subtle hint of honey and sweet tobacco. A quick swirl, then repeated nosing, really brings out a sweet dark berry aroma that is fresh and vibrant. I detect a slight dryness in the nose of this pour, reminiscent of grapes and red wine. Adding a few drops of distilled water adds to the nose of this spirit. Brown sugar and dark fruits really take center stage. The thoughts of grape jam on a homemade biscuit come to mind. So Sweet!

Mike: As I raise the glass to my nose, there is an immediate presence of dried fruits. Raisins and figs are instantly recognizable but there is a subtle bouquet of mixed berries that begins to materialize. As I nose in deeper, after a gentle swirl of the Glencairn, chewing tobacco and dark cocoa powder aromas are liberated upon the palate.


Christian: As I begin to dive into my glass, I first notice a mouth feel that is light and thin. As I swirl this Ragged Branch offering I detect a slight nuttiness – similar to crushed dry roasted peanuts. As I take a second sip, the flavor profile shifts and brings on additional hints of oak, cloves, grapes/wine, and an ever so modest dose of rye bread. The few drops of water added makes the mouth feel really smooth. A nice dose of fruitiness stands out strong, bringing to mind sweet red grapes and strawberries. Delicious!

Mike: The initial mouth feel is delicate, as expanding flavors of pie crust and baked chocolate escalate through the middle of the palate. Very nostalgic suggestions of chocolate chess tarts homemade by my mother, present themselves. Moving to the back of the tongue and towards the throat, the mouth feel becomes dry. Cinnamon and clove spice appear then a mild black pepper dryness surmounts any mild sweetness offered by the baking spices.


Christian: This Ragged Branch Wine Barrel Finished Whiskey brings a medium to medium long finish. There is an identifiable rye kick on the back end that includes a nice warming sensation from the throat down to the chest. The finish is a little dry, as would be expected given the wine influence. As the flavors begin to disappear, I notice a slight hint of peach, tobacco, and black pepper. A few drops of water softens the rye spice a bit in this pour. The black pepper remains, but, is not as strong as originally experienced.

Mike: The dry black pepper flavors continue into the finish. A crisp minty zest rounds out the palate as a growing burn lingers in the chest. Overall the finish is medium to long and this whiskey drinks hotter, in a good way, than 94 proof.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: Mike and I will both agree that wine barrel finished whiskies typically are not our preferred pours. That is not the case with this Wine Barrel Finished Whiskey from Ragged Branch. Ragged Branch’s blend of their Signature Bourbon recipe and some Double Oaked Signature Bourbon barrels really held up nicely to the added flavors provided by French Oak wine barrels. The result was a truly balanced whiskey that provided considerable complexity in flavors. This whiskey can easily be enjoyed by someone just starting out on their bourbon journey or an individual who greatly appreciates everything that a good glass of whiskey has to offer. I liked this offering neat and it really showed a second, equally enjoyable side, with water added. This whiskey hits the marks and is well worth picking up to add on your bar!

Rating: 3.50 Rickhouses

Mike: I am very impressed by this offering from Ragged Branch. I’ve tasted a few wine cask finished bourbons in the past, and felt the wine barrels imparted too much aftertaste. For me, this is a well-balanced cask finish allowing the bourbon to shine while mingling the delicate hints offered by the wine barrels. 

The addition of water substantially sweetened the nose, bringing out brown sugar notes and milk chocolate syrup. The mouth produced a sweet mixed berry piquancy and more wine-like flavors emerged. Overall, the finished was softened by the addition of water but the dryness from the black pepper was very much present.

Rating: 3.25 Rickhouses


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