DSR – VA – 016: Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon
Company/Distillery: Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Mash Bill: 68% Corn, 16% Rye, and 16% Malted Barley
Age Statement: 5 years old
Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45% ABV
Color & Viscosity: Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon is auburn in color. The whiskey produces a medium viscous line in the tasting vessel with a thick oily residue left behind. Legs develop immediately from the viscous line and rapidly flee down the sides of the glass.
Purchase Price: $39.99 with tax for a 750 ml bottle in VA.
Bottle Label Information:
“Independently Hand Crafted”
“Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey”
“Batch 10 | Bottle 623”
“2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition Silver”
“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 rye 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 and Bottled by: Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC, Charlottesville, Virginia”
Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC
Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC, 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 their future plans after the 2008-2009 housing crisis. Mr. Toomy and his friends were home-builders and developers, experiencing firsthand, the fall out of the housing market. It was during one of these gatherings that someone jokingly mentioned 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 Maker’s Mark Master Distiller, Dave Pickerell.
Mr. Pickerell proved to be absolutely instrumental in assisting the men at Ragged Branch as they got their feet wet in the world of whiskey. 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 Pickerell’s four day visit on the farm, Toomy and his partners decided that making Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey, with the help 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Pickerell to be their Master Distiller, as they have continued to run the operation just as he taught them.
Standard offerings available by Ragged Branch include: Signature Bourbon; Wheated Bourbon; Double Oaked Signature Bourbon Bottled-in-Bond; Double Oaked Wheated Bourbon; Straight Rye Whiskey; Louisiana Reserve Signature; Louisiana Reserve Wheated; Signature Bourbon Finished in Wine Barrels.
For a brief look at the distillery and what they have going on check out this Ragged Branch Showcase Video!
Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon
Ragged Branch carefully crafts its Signature Bourbon using a recipe of 68% corn, 16% rye, and 16% malted barley. After distillation, this bourbon is aged in 53-gallon Kelvin Cooperage barrels for at least 5 years before being bottled at 90 proof. Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon is a true farm-to-distillery product with all grains used in the production, being grown by the Ragged Mountain Farm. If you ask Alex which Ragged Branch offering is his favorite, he will loudly and proudly proclaim that this Signature Bourbon is his personal favorite.
Tasting Date/Vessel: October 14, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then with a distilled water ice cube.
Christian: In the bottle, Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon presents with a hint of sweetness, fresh tobacco, and freshly brewed black tea. In my Glencairn glass, the whiskey offers a rich sweetness that is simply delectable – dark brown sugar, caramel sauce, vanilla, and honey. A quick swirl and return to the nose allows a touch of rye grain spice, similar to clove or a touch of black pepper, to accompany an aroma of sweet cornbread batter. Finally, I notice just a hint of floral notes in this – very light but present nonetheless. The addition of distilled water really opens up the nose allowing loads of sweet caramel, tobacco, and a punch of clove to permeate from the glass.
Mike: As this tasting vessel draws close to my nose, I’m met with an abundance of fresh, dark brown sugar aromas. Sweet cinnamon with hint of fresh oatmeal permeates through as I gently swirl the whiskey in the glass. As the bourbon begins to settle, the soft fragrance of cured tobacco and freshly brewed sweet tea saturate the palate.
Christian: Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon has a silky smooth mouthfeel that is quite soft. On the front of the palate, you get a punch of sweetness that is reminiscent of caramel sauce, oak barrel char, fresh corn, and a touch of leather. The flavor profile out of the gate is very closely related to traditional bourbon with subtle nuances here and there. A quick swirl and another swallow brings forth just a smidge of vanilla buttercream icing, a punch of cinnamon, and a flavor that is very similar to freshly rolled cinnamon bun dough. Distilled water takes a soft mouthfeel and elevates it to another level. Cinnamon, honey, vanilla, creamed corn, and pastry dough dominate the flavor profile.
Mike: This Signature offering from Ragged Branch delivers a gentle oakiness with a soothing sweetness that moves swiftly from front to mid-palate. Rich suggestions of leather, intermingled with spicy black pepper, expand and surge on the tongue. A candy-like cinnamon sweetness rises in the background then fades into a very docile smokiness.
Christian: Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon has a medium finish that really allows the rye grain to shine. A very timid bitterness from the oak barrels kicks things off then quickly transitions to cloves, black pepper, and a hint of earthiness similar to fresh alfalfa hay. As the flavors begin to dissipate, I catch a subtle splash of honey, red apples, and wheat toast. The addition of water takes a nice finish and tames it a bit too much for my liking. Brown sugar, oak char, and rye grain remain dominant at this point, but it’s seriously lacking the punch that was previously present.
Mike: This bourbon offers a moderate finish overall. There is a mild bitterness that cultivates from a charge of black pepper spice on the back of the tongue. Oak char and aged leather round out the finish meticulously with suggestion of sweet cinnamon.
4.0/5.0 Rickhouses – “Make it a Double!”
Christian: This Signature Bourbon by Ragged Branch is a fantastic introduction to the product line offered by the distillery and an all around enjoyable whiskey with which to imbibe. Yes, the Signature Bourbon opens up with traditional profiles found in bourbons from other regions of the United States. However, it seems to me the higher barley content in the Ragged Branch mash bills really set them apart from other distilleries by adding additional dynamic flavors to their whiskey. We have previously reviewed the Double Oaked Wheated and Double Oaked Signature Bourbon offerings from the distillery and I believe those are both exceptional. At the purchase price of around $60 though, I view those offerings as more of a special occasion pour or perhaps one to be shared with the occasional friend. I truly see this Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon as a “daily drinker”. This is something I will continue to buy to keep on my shelf and enjoy regularly, either in an Old Fashioned, neat, or with a cube. It has the flavors and punch to stand up strong when mixed, but enough finesse to be enjoyed alone in any situation.
Two recommendations: #1) If you are in the central Virginia area and have time, stop by the beautiful facility at Ragged Branch and take a visit. I promise that you will not regret seeing the amazing vista and surrounding areas while sipping on a cocktail in the tasting room. Tell Hambone, Jenny, and Bootlegger that Chizwell said hello! #2) Don’t be a tater (it’s a real word, go look it up) or big name bottle chaser of only Kentucky only products. Grab a bottle of this Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon, as well as a couple of their premium offerings to fill your bar. I always have Ragged Branch laying around and I don’t regret it at all.
Cheers, my friends!
Rating: 4.00 Rickhouses
Mike: Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon is an especially well-rounded bourbon. The profile is more traditional, but does offer a uniqueness from the inclusion of the malted barley. The nose of this bourbon really outshines with its complexities. The mouth and finish are more balanced with consistent flavor throughout. This is a fantastically drinkable pour with its 90 proof, very much an everyday drinker. I enjoyed this neat, but it mixes exceptionally well, providing versatility for price.
Ragged Branch consistently delivers very good to great bourbon. If you think only big distilleries from Kentucky make exceptional bourbon, you’re just flat out wrong and misguided. Do yourself a favor and “Branch Out”…pun very much intended!
P.S. Alex and Josh, I’m trademarking the slogan “Branch Out”– I will make it available to your marketing department for the right price…I accept payment in the form of bourbon!
Rating: 4.00 Rickhouses