DSR – VA – 020: Ragged Branch Cowboy Cut
Company/Distillery: Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Mash Bill: 83% Rye and 17% Malted Barley
Age Statement: No Age Statement
Proof/ABV: 125.77 Proof/62.89% ABV
Color & Viscosity: This Ragged Branch Cowboy Cut Double Oaked Straight Rye presents with a deep and rich old oak hue. One of the darkest whiskies we have sampled to date. In the glass, this rye whiskey offers a shade of burnt umber. The viscous line is sharp with tiny pin head droplets appearing quickly, as the glass is tilted to the side. Oily residual streaks are left behind as the legs dawdle down the sides.
Purchase Price: $69.99 From the Distillery Tasting Room
Bottle Label Information:
“Independently Hand Crafted”
“Double Oaked Virginia Straight Rye Whiskey”
“Barrel 2016 | Bottle 147”
“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. Cattle are a huge part of our lives. For three generations, the Toomy family has raised cattle, and our founder, Alex Toomy, believes that there’s no better way to work cattle than on horseback. As a self-proclaimed cowboy, he wanted to hand select a spirit that represents his passion and the cowboy way. The cowboys and cattlemen of this country are some of the hardest working individuals in the world. They put beef on the plates of people thousands of miles away and rarely get credit for the hard work they put in. At Ragged Branch, we decided to honor the labor and dedication that these fine men and women put in day after day by selecting a barrel of Double Oaked Straight Rye Whiskey. This whiskey wouldn’t be fit for a calloused cowboy if it wasn’t left intact and undiluted at Barrel Proof.”
“Tip your hat and enjoy Ragged Branch Cowboy Cut, brought to you by the cattlemen of Central Virginia.”
“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 Double Oaked Straight Rye Whiskey using a recipe of 83% rye and 17% malted barley. After distillation, this bourbon is aged in 53-gallon Kelvin Cooperage barrels for a minimum of 4 years before being transferred to a second new oak barrel for at least an additional year. This special release offering is then bottled at a robust Barrel Proof of 125.77 Proof.
Tasting Date/Vessel: June 26, 2022 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then with a few drops of distilled water.
Christian: Good gracious! In the bottle, robust aromas of cured tobacco burst forth from the neck quickly after the pop of the cork. Visions of walking into a well maintained cigar shop humidor race to my mind. This is accompanied by an essence of baking spices such as allspice and mulling spice. I am excited to dive into this pour! In my Glencairn glass, Cowboy Cut holds an elegant array of sweet molasses which is nicely balanced by clove and cinnamon baking spices. A gentle swirl releases subtle hints of oak, dark honey, and a surprising note of cranberries and black cherry. To me, what is noticeably missing that I expected to be present due to the proof is an overpowering punch of ethanol – a welcome omission. Adding distilled water into the mix really brings out a dark maple syrup quality to this whiskey. There is still a touch of baking spice present, but it becomes more muted and allows a bit more toasted brown sugar and berries to seep through.
Mike: From the bottle, this whiskey hits heavy with clove, allspice, and cinnamon. This pour reminds me of a Christmas ham, dotted with fresh whole cloves and spiced sugar glaze. Notes of tobacco, Big Red chewing gum, and dark cherries become noticeable with a swirl of the bottle.
With the glass sitting on the table a few inches away, swarms of cranberry compote, raisins and figs invade the senses. Drawing the tasting vessel towards your nose, toasted baking spices, heavy cinnamon, and dark molasses explode on the palate. Rye spice is intermingled with sweet baking spices as fresh tobacco and oak char push through late. A swirl releases a sweetness of cola syrup then succumbs to heavy notes of sweet cinnamon.
Christian: Cowboy Cut offers a thick oily mouthfeel that leaves a generous coating on the roof of the mouth and tongue. Boy does this Double Oaked Barrel Proof Straight Rye Whiskey offer a rich warm flavor profile. Dark brown sugar, syrup, and warm vanilla bean join harmoniously with a kick of clove and cinnamon baking spices. A second sip of this expression adds notes of homemade biscuits topped with raw honey and a pat of butter. Distilled water allows the mouth feel to lighten a tad but really ramps up the oak barrel flavors. The whiskey loses a bit of the sweetness it had at Barrel Proof. Vanilla, clove, and toasted sugar remain present in the flavors.
Mike: Ragged Branch Cowboy Cut offers a dry mouth feel initially. A sweetness emerges mid-palate as dry cinnamon spice coats the palate and a bite of rye zest tickles the upper throat. Intense flavors of clove are dominant, but a hint of sliced apples prevails through the heavy clove cloak.
A second pass of this whiskey introduces heavy oak char, somewhat tannic and bitter, then transitions to old leather and mulling spices.
Christian: Ragged Branch Cowboy Cut has a nice medium to long finish that is warming but not nearly as hot or spicy as one would perhaps have expected in a barrel proof straight rye whiskey. A nice sweetness remains long after sipping the whiskey, bringing to mind flavors of black cherry, molasses, apples, and cinnamon. Notes of oak barrel char and fresh cigar/pipe tobacco hit late and hang around on the palate for a long time after imbibing in this whiskey. The addition of water really brings on a punch of spice here. This actually drinks hotter with the water added than undiluted as Mr. Toomy intended this to be enjoyed. The oak barrel brings on just a smidgen of bitterness to the pour while apple and mixed berries remain present.
Mike: This double oaked rye bolsters a long and uniform finish. While this whiskey provides some heat at 125 proof, it is not abrasive at all. A persistent cinder is noticed from the back of the throat deep into the mid-chest and down into the belly. A crisp hint of apple, Big Red chewing gum, and clove linger on the palate.
3.88/5.0 Rickhouses – “Make it a Double!”
Christian: There are really a lot of nice notes going on in this expression from Ragged Branch. The nose is phenomenal, painting an aromatic picture of what one should expect to experience when sipping on the whiskey. This is followed by a well-balanced taste profile that offers a little bit of sweet heat or spice – a combination typically found in straight rye whiskey. But what sets this apart for me is the extra richness and bold flavors that the double barreling brings to the table with Cowboy Cut. Finally, the finish here is long and pronounced as is expected with a barrel proof offering. Cowboy Cut is in no way overly spicy or hot for my palate.
This pour reminds me a lot of being around a fire in the winter at the holidays. Traditional Christmas smells and flavors like vanilla, clove, cinnamon, cranberries, and cherries abound. The finishing pop of cigar or pipe tobacco just really makes this a homey feeling pour of whiskey. A fine salute to Alex, his family tradition, and the population of American Cattle Farmers who feed us daily! I love many of the special release offerings from Ragged Branch, but I think this one might just be my most favorite to date.
Rating: 4.25 Rickhouses
Mike: This is a bold, flavorful, spicy offering from Ragged Branch. It’s very big on clove and baking spices–perfect for sipping neat during the holiday season. I prefer this pour on a rock or with a light splash of distilled water. The water cuts down the mountain of clove spice in this offering but doesn’t take away anything from the finish and reveals that Ragged Branch double oaked character that I really love. This Cowboy Cut won’t be for everyone, and that’s OK. If you like bold and spicy flavors, this is right up your alley. While not my preferred expression from Ragged Branch, this is another unique, flavorful and impressive whiskey from one of my favorite distilleries.
Rating: 3.50 Rickhouses