Review: Broad Branch Big Winston Straight Bourbon Whiskey

DSR – NC – 011: Broad Branch Big Winston Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Company/Distillery: Broad Branch Distillery

Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Mash Bill: 86% Corn, 8% Barley, and 6% Rye

Age Statement: 4 Years

Proof/ABV: 85 Proof/42.5% ABV

Color & Viscosity: Light auburn in color. Tilting the Glencairn glass to the side, a generous viscous line materializes as tiny perforations begin to bead up. Thick legs develop then glide effortlessly down to the belly of the tasting vessel. 

Purchase Price: $45.95 from the distillery pre-order lottery January 19, 2021; 750 ml

Bottle Label Information:

Front Label

“Broad Branch | TRD MRK 2013 | Winston Salem NC”

“BIG WINSTON Straight Bourbon Whiskey”

“Single Barrel. Double Distilled. Low Rye Mash.”

“Barreled: 01.06.16 | Dumped: 01.14.20 | Barrel: #0011”

“Aged 4 Years”

Rear Label


“Profile: Big Winston takes its name from the former tobacco auction warehouse where it was born, barreled and bottled after four years of rest. Featuring a unique, ultra-low rye mash bill, this handcrafted, single-barrel bourbon embodies the character of its birthplace – a town where time-honored traditions give way to bold, new ventures.”

“Handmade from a mash of 6% rye, 8% barley, and 86% corn”

“Distilled, aged & bottled by Broad Branch Distillery – Winston-Salem, NC”

“Signed: John Fragakis – 48/100”

Distillery Background

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 Frank Williams’ recipe from Allegheny County, NC. Broad Branch Head Distillers, Joe Tappe and Don Jenkins, have since expanded the selection of products made by the distillery to include the following: Rye Fidelity 100% Rye Mash; SUNGRAZER Southern Craft Rum; SUPERCOLLIDER Pear Rye Whiskey; NOBILIUM 3 Barrel Master Blend – now known as Frank’s Reserve; and SMASHING VIOLET Craft Infusion.

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, the 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 abundantly clear – the entire crew at Broad Branch Distilling sees the operation as both an art and 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 or near Winston-Salem, NC or plan on visiting soon, we recommend adding a pitstop at Broad Branch Distillery. 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. We have been several times lately and experienced fantastic cocktails and the occasional food truck. Even in the time of COVID-19, they have taken several precautions to ensure a pleasant experience including quaint outdoor seating and distillery made sanitizer. Check out their website here.

BIG WINSTON Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 1st Release

Broad Branch Distillery released its newest product, BIG WINSTON Straight Bourbon Whiskey on January 19, 2021. BIG WINSTON is celebrated as being Winston-Salem’s first legal Straight Bourbon since prohibition. This bourbon will be released as a single barrel offering that may see changes to proof and other characteristics based on the specific release. This inaugural release, barrel #0011, was barreled on January 6, 2016 and rested for four years in an oak barrel before being dumped on January 14, 2020 producing approximately 200 bottles. Broad Branch decided to bottle this first release at 85 proof/42.5 ABV in an effort to make sure a wide range of consumers could enjoy. This bourbon has a low-rye mash bill of 86% corn, 8% barley, and 6% rye. All bottles were sold out on the first day of release.

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: February 10, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Few drops of distilled water second time around.


Christian: A quick sniff of the whiskey in the bottle produces a quick hit of brown sugar and an ever so slight hint of smokiness. I take a generous pour of the whiskey in my Glencairn and give it a nice strong swirl. As I lift the glass to my nose, the first aroma I pick up is bubble gum (the pink kind) and a very slight hint of mixed berry. I allow the whiskey to rest a few minutes then swirl in my glass again. A second nosing produces a heavy oak char, accompanied by the sweetness of brown sugar, raw pancake batter, and some baking spices. The addition of distilled water really shifts the nose to predominantly brown sugar, a hint of maple, and more of the oak barrel char found before adding water.

Mike: Nosing straight out of the bottle offers an aroma of gentle fruitiness and curing tobacco. The first pass in the glass and I get a quick whiff of ethanol that dissipates to brown sugar and fresh oatmeal. As I nose in deeper, a tamed cinnamon bouquet shyly presents itself but struggles to hold its own. A light swirl of the tasting vessel offers fluctuating waves of rubbing alcohol, brown sugar, and allspice.


Christian: After looking at the legs on my Glencairn glass, I am expecting a thick and sticky mouth feel on this whiskey. That wasn’t the case – the mouth feel was thinner than expected and rather delicate. As I take my first sip, I am hit with a rush of oakiness on my palate. The oaky taste is strong and pronounced. As I continue to sip on the pour, I begin to notice leather, baking spice (mostly clove), and a touch of toasted marshmallows. Distilled water makes the delicate mouth feel as smooth as silk. The sweetness on the palate really ramps up but I cannot peg exactly what I am tasting – maybe a tinge of honey or butterscotch. The addition of water really mutes the flavor.

Mike: My opening sip of this sample is delicate and semi-sweet. Leather and soft oak begin to develop mid-palate. Shockingly, cereal flavors come late, reminding me of a bowl of Apple Jacks breakfast cereal. This offering from Broad Branch has promise when it comes to the flavor, but the lower proof lends itself to a bit of an underwhelming mouth profile.


Christian: Broad Branch Big Winston presents with a short to medium finish that is overall pretty smooth. A little hug wells up from my chest as my tongue tingles a bit. Deep dark chocolate, clove, and rye spice are apparent. There is still a fair amount of oak at play here and it brings a very dry finish that is fairly bitter. As I sit and reflect on the pour, I notice slight hints of vanilla and leather, with a touch of citrus flavors creeping in to the picture. Surprisingly, with the added water, the rye spice and black pepper seem to ramp up slightly. This added spice doesn’t help to alleviate the bitterness and oak in the back end of the pour.

Mike: Broad Branch Big Winston offers a diluted finish that I feel, lacks depth and boldness. I begin to detect a touch of cinnamon candy but this is not a hot cinnamon candy and more sugary in essence. This bourbon has no burn and offers a rather docile finale.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: It is our understanding that when Broad Branch decided to release this first edition of their Big Winston Bourbon, proofing it down to 85 proof was a decision made to attract more casual whiskey drinkers. Something about Broad Branch’s Big Winston Bourbon feels a bit unbalanced. Oak rules the day here, and with it, comes a degree of bitterness. I cannot help but wonder–if this bourbon was released at 100 proof Bottled-in-Bond or barrel proof, the zip of flavor would have made this initial offering pop a bit more. Instead, the consumer could proof the spirit down to their liking, as needed, with a cube of ice or a few drops of water. Based on their stated goal, Broad Branch seems to have hit the mark. For me personally, Big Winston left me wanting a little bit more.

Rating: 2.50 Rickhouses

Mike: Big Winston opens with promise and offers a fantastically satisfying nose. The aromas in the mouth are subdued as it transitions sadly into a less than exciting finish. I believe this offering is under proofed at 85, taking away from its overall flavor immensely.

  • The Good: 4 years old with a great deal of potential, while simultaneously offering a drinkability factor for beginners. 
  • The Bad: Extremely low proof which detracts and suffocates a lot of character in this offering.

Rating: 2.75 Rickhouses


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