Ragged Branch Distillery sits quietly on a mountaintop in Charlottesville, Virginia. As you sit at the distillery enjoying a cocktail there are few things you are likely to hear, the rhythmic sound of grains being milled and hooves shuffling around the farm enjoying the spent grains from stills. Just like clockwork, you’ll find this happening seven days a week on this working farm.
Ragged Branch starting distilling operations in 2014 and has just announced the first release of their four year old Ragged Branch Wheated Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This is technically the third wheated bourbon release with the first release at two years, three months and the second at two years, seven months. The small batch bourbon uses grains grown on the farm with a mashbill of 66% corn, 17% wheat and 17% malted barley.
“It has been tough to be patient waiting for our wheated bourbon to come of age, but now that we have it, it was so worth the wait,” said Alex Toomy, owner of Ragged Branch Distillery. “Once we sampled the final product, its authentic and mature taste was distinct, and we feel confident our customers are going to love it as much as we do.”
The master distiller for Ragged Branch was the late Dave Pickerell. He worked with the distillery from day one to get the distillery off the ground. The company released this heartfelt statement below along with a 2014 cell phone video clip celebrating a special moment at the distillery.
A Note About Master Distiller Dave Pickerell
“We are deeply saddened to learn of Dave Pickerell’s passing. Dave served as master distiller for Ragged Branch, teaching us onsite at our farm in Charlottesville the time-honored, old-school methods of producing straight bourbon, as only he could do.
We will miss his passion for the craft and his larger-than-life personality but are incredibly grateful for the time we had with him and the firsthand knowledge he passed on to us to be able to produce the finest, most authentic Virginia straight bourbon possible.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone else affected by his passing.”
~The Ragged Branch Team
The 1st Ragged Branch Distillery Distillation Run
Watch this video to see the very first Ragged Branch Distillation run with Master Distiller Dave Pickerell cheering on the moment.
Master Distiller Dave Pickerell Tasting Notes – “It’s fantastic.”
“People tasting the new Ragged Branch Wheated Straight Virginia Bourbon are in for a really big treat,” said David Pickerell, the former Maker’s Mark master distiller who serves now in the same capacity for Ragged Branch. “Knowing Alex, the Ragged Branch team and the company’s commitment to excellence in every aspect of making this bourbon, I was confident it was going to be really good, but I think it’s better than good – it’s fantastic.”
- Aromatic notes include robust corn with oak and light floral
- Hints of buttery brown sugar, cherry vanilla and caramel with strong cinnamon on the front
- The flavors build on the tongue and finishes long, leaving one craving another taste. After adding a spoonful of water, the nose opens the oaky cinnamon aroma. The water brings it a very pleasant almond vanilla, finishing smoothly and with a fresh taste of cinnamon and the grains from which it was made
- One barrel of the bourbon is produced daily
The distillery was founded by Alex Toomy and now co-owners Russell Nance and Chris Sarpy. The trio embarked on a journey to establish a distillery at a farm Toomy owned on Ragged Mountain in Central Virginia. After seeing Pickerell on a History Channel TV program about whiskey, Toomy took a chance and called the bourbon guru to see if he would be interested in helping Ragged Branch get its operations off the ground.
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“David was unequivocal in wanting to be a part of our wild idea,” Toomy said. “He flew to Charlottesville to see the farm and ended up getting snowed in for four days. That gave us a lot of time to get to know each other and learn from one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry about every detail for making great tasting bourbon.”
After building a barn to house the distillery and constructing the actual still, and then navigating the permitting process – both federal and state, which included an unscheduled visit by Virginia ABC authorities that was amicably resolved – Ragged Branch began the bourbon making process in 2014.
Ragged Branch Wheated Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey is 90° proof (45% ABV) and has a suggested retail price of $49.99 for a 750ml bottle. It’s available at the distillery and select retail stores, bars and restaurants in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware and Louisiana. It is also sold at over 100 Virginia ABC outlets across the state.
About Those Cattle We Mentioned
The farm is the primary grower and producer of the bourbon’s ingredients. That spent bourbon mash we mentioned is recycled by feeding it to the cattle on the farm. Toomy says, “The mash gives the Black Angus beef a distinctive bourbon flavor that tastes great on its own and when paired with Ragged Branch bourbon. We farmed cattle before we ever had the idea to make bourbon, so this was really just a fortunate side effect that happened with our beef. Now we’re getting a reputation for the flavor of our beef as well.”
Visitors to Ragged Branch Distillery can sample the brand’s bourbon and its beef.
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Ragged Branch 4 Year Old Wheated Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey