Ragged Branch Distillery Is Coming Of Age Header

RAGGED BRANCH DISTILLERY IS COMING OF AGE

In Bourbon Whiskey Reviews, Rye Whiskey News by Lee StangLeave a Comment

Walking into the VIP area at the Mount Vernon Whiskey Fest back in November, Patti and I see a familiar face and head over to the area where Ragged Branch Distillery Owner Alex Toomy is pouring samples. One bottle in particular, is a barrel proof rye whiskey, 126 proof. Alex identifies it as samples from a private selection.  That was the best whiskey we tasted that night even though Bill Thomas owner Jack Rose was pouring from some dusties over in the corner.

I have written several articles about Ragged Branch for Bourbon and Banter since they first invited us to their distillery in 2017. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, they started distilling bourbon in July 2014 under the tutelage of Dave Pickerell. In addition, they also distill rye whiskey and at Mount Vernon, Alex told us his rye whiskey would be bottled soon and invited us to visit the distillery for a tasting.

In mid-January, Patti and I spent a Friday afternoon at Ragged Branch, having burgers owner Alex Toomy, sipping bourbon and talking spirits.  Of course the main purpose of our visit was to taste the new Ragged Branch Bottled in Bond Rye Whiskey Release. The surprise was that Ragged Branch also had just released a Bottled in Bond Signature Bourbon Double Oaked.

Given that Ragged Branch started distilling bourbon in July of 2014, all of their 5 whiskey releases are approaching 5 years in age. Not only did we get to taste the newest releases, we also received samples of the older three releases as well. It has been interesting to sample these older releases as I first tasted these when they were first released as bourbons aged a little over two years in 25 gallon barrels, to the four year old Batch 1 release and now Batch 5. The improvement is noticeable. My thoughts on all five expressions follow. Note that while the Wheated Bourbon and Signature Bourbon are done in small batches of about 8 barrels each, the other expressions are all single barrels.


The flavors build on the tongue with pepper, sweet tobacco, and cinnamon. After adding a spoonful of water, the pepper softens, and sweet notes of caramel and marzipan come through. This whiskey is excellent neat, or in cocktails like a Manhattan.Ragged Branch Distillery
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Ragged Branch Rye Whiskey – Barrel 77


  • DISTILLER Ragged Branch Distillery
  • MASH BILL: 83%  Rye  | 17% Malted Barley
  • AGE: No Age Statement, about 4 years and 4 months
  • YEAR: 2019
  • PROOF: 100 Proof (50% ABV)
  • MSRP: $56.99
  • BUY ONLINE: Only available at the distillery

NOSE: Marble Rye Bread  |  Malt

TASTE: Marble Rye Bread  |  Cocoa

FINISH:  The rye spice is evident throughout the experience. Not overwhelming but a nice burn. 

SHARE WITH:  Rye Bourbon lovers and Bottled in Bond Geeks.

WORTH THE PRICE: At about $50 MSRP, it is right in line with other craft rye whiskies

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST:  Only available at the tasting room so try it out there first and go with a bottle if you wish.


Toasted malt and oak on the nose with subtle butterscotch. After the first sip, notice a very smooth and oily mouthfeel. The flavors build on the tongue with vanilla bean, sweet tobacco, and a subtle hint of spicy rye. The finish is full bodied and smooth all the way down.Ragged Branch Distillery
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Ragged Branch Double Oaked Signature Bourbon – Barrel 1405

  • DISTILLER: Ragged Branch Distillery   Charlottesville, VA
  • MASH BILL: 68% Corn | 16% Rye | 16% Malted Barley
  • AGE: No Age Statement, 4 years in a #3 char barrel, 1 year in a #4 char barrel
  • YEAR: 2019
  • PROOF: 100 Proof (50% ABV)
  • MSRP: $56.99
  • BUY ONLINE: Only available at the distillery

    NOSE: Chocolate Malt Balls  |  Vanilla

    TASTE: Chocolate  |  Malt  |  Cocoa powder

    FINISH: The higher proof and double oak makes this a rich chocolate bomb of a bourbon. A long finish with chocolate, followed by malt and a nice spice.

    SHARE WITH: Bottled in Bond aficionados and those who like double oaked bourbons.

    WORTH THE PRICE:  To me this is definitely worth the price.

    BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Only available at the tasting room so try it out there first and go with a bottle if you wish.


    Vanilla and caramel with strong cinnamon on the front. The flavors build on the tongue, hitting all the taste buds, finishing long, leaving a craving for another taste. After adding a spoonful of water, the nose opens the oaky cinnamon aroma, bringing out a very pleasant almond vanilla, finishing smoothly with a fresh taste of cinnamon.Ragged Branch Distillery
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    Ragged Branch Wheated Bourbon – Batch 5


    • DISTILLER: Ragged Branch Distillery   Charlottesville, VA
    • MASH BILL: 68% Corn | 16% Wheat | 16% Malted Barley
    • AGE: No Age Statement, 4 years in a #3 char barrel, 1 year in a #4 char barrel
    • YEAR: 2019
    • PROOF: 90 Proof (45% ABV)
    • MSRP: $39.99
    • BUY ONLINE: wine-searcher.com

      NOSE: Malt  |  Buttered corn  |  Fresh wood

      TASTE:Malt  | Bananas  |  Spice

      FINISH:Candy corn on the finish and little spice. A wheated bourbon in the same vein as Maker’s Mark but more malt on the nose and taste.

      SHARE WITH: Friends who like wheated bourbons or beginners looking to try bourbon.

      WORTH THE PRICE:  To me this is definitely worth the price.

      BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Go for a bottle if you can find it.

      Overall: Ragged Branch has two other expressions that they produce. My notes on those two follow.

      Ragged Branch SIGNATURE Bourbon – Batch 5

      • DISTILLER: Ragged Branch Distillery   Charlottesville, VA
      • AGE: No Age Statement, but about 5 years
      • PROOF: 90 Proof (45% ABV)
      • NOSE: Caramel  |  Malt Balls
      • TASTE: Chocolate  |  Oak  |  Pepper
      • FINISH: The finish leaves caramel on the tongue with an enjoyable spice.

        Ragged Branch Wheated Double Oaked Bourbon – Barrel 1144

        • DISTILLER: Ragged Branch Distillery   Charlottesville, VA
        • AGE: No Age Statement, but about 5 years
        • PROOF: 90 Proof (45% ABV)
        • PRICE: $49.99
        • NOSE: Chocolate Malt Balls  |  Fresh Cut Wood
        • TASTE: Malt Chocolate  |  All Spice
        • FINISH: The aging in a heavier charred second barrel definitely makes this a richer and spicier bourbon than the regular wheated bourbon.

            I find all the Ragged Branch releases have a noticeable malt component to them. All of their bourbon mash bills are 68% corn, 16% wheat or rye and 16% malted barley while their rye mash bill is 83% rye and 17% malted barley. To me, this leads to a good bit of malt on the nose and palate. It is long and soft with the Wheated Bourbon and shorter with the Double Oaked Signature Bourbon and Rye Whiskey.

            Given that Ragged Branch started distilling bourbon in July of 2014, all of their 5 whiskey releases are approaching 5 years in age. That extra age is making a big difference in the quality of these whiskies.  The five expressions run the gamut from a very smooth Makers like wheated bourbon to the rich and chocolate double oaked signature to the spicy rye. The higher proofs of the Bottled in Bond expressions add additional richness. The Double Oaked Signature is becoming one of my favorite bourbons.

            Ragged Branch Bourbon is presently available in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. as well as in Louisiana where it has a large following. They are now working to increase their distribution into a number of other states as well. Ragged Branch also has started a single barrel program.  A number of  groups have already been to the distillery to pick out their own barrel including the organizers of the New Orleans Bourbon Festival.  At the beginning I mentioned a single barrel cask proof rye that Patti and I sampled both at Mount Vernon and at the distillery. The incredible richness in that whiskey is mind blowing. Alex has always told me that there were some great honey barrels in the rickhouse but this was the first time I have had the opportunity to try one.

            Ragged Branch sent each of its five expressions to the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year for the first time. The Wheated Bourbon ended up with a Double Gold Medal while the Double Oaked Signature Bottled in Bond Bourbon and the Double Oaked Wheated Bourbon both won Gold Medals. Think what you may of spirits competition but a win at the San Francisco competition can be a big boost for a craft distillery.

            The idea to distill bourbon from over ten years ago is growing up.

            Ragged Branch… Coming of Age

            Other Bourbon and Banter Articles on Ragged Branch:


            Disclaimer: Ragged Branch Distillery invited Bourbon & Banter to visit their distillery to learn about their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.
            About the Author
            Lee Stang

            Lee Stang

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            Lee’s bourbon journey started with one mistaken gulp of bourbon and coke as an eight-year-old. While bourbon was always part of his life, Lee followed a beer, wine path for the most part until a bartender poured him a taste of Buffalo Trace about ten years ago. It was at that point Lee’s love of bourbon really took off. Not only does Lee enjoy a good pour of bourbon but he is more than willing and excited to talk about it. Lee believes that bourbon, and for that matter all spirits, is enhanced by the experience of good company, good conversation and good bars. The combination leads to great stories. Say hi to him when you see him. Lee lives in Leesburg, VA, with his wife, best friend, and drinking partner, Patti. You might find her having a bourbon as well. Both Lee and Patti like to read mystery thrillers and travel. Most likely the travel leads to visits to new bars.

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