Born from the Lexington Brewing Company that was built by Irish entrepreneur and Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame member Dr. Pearse Lyons in 1999, the Town Branch Distillery, located in Lexington, KY, gets its name from the historic Town Branch River that flows through Lexington and provides it with the limestone-rich water it uses for brewing and distillation. The first distillery built in Lexington in 100 years, the Town Branch has continuously produced four spirits since it went online in 2008: Town Branch Bourbon, Pearse Lyons Reserve (a single malt whiskey), Town Branch Rye Whiskey, and Bluegrass Sundown (a bourbon-infused coffee drink). Town Branch is a craft producer and use a pot still double distillation method using two Forsythe stills which were imported from Scotland in 2008. Town Branch’s whiskies are all either produced in small batches containing approximately 8 barrels or as limited-release single-barrel offerings. A recent re-branding of their core range means their Kentucky rye whiskey will now be exclusively single barrel.
As a distillery that is predominantly known for their bourbon and rye products, 2018 saw the release of the first ever barrel-finished whiskey from the Town Branch Distillery. Released to coincide with the induction of late distillery founder Dr. Pearse Lyons into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, this limited release features 9 year old bourbon from the first days of distilling at Town Branch, when their stills were still squeezed into their brewery. To create this product Master Distiller Mark Coffman chose the 9 best barrels from this first distillation run for their depth of flavour and how well they would interact with the first-fill Oloroso sherry casks. The whiskey was then put into the sherry barrels and left for 9 months (a lot of 9s – I know) to allow it pick up the complex fruit and earthy nut notes that Coffman hoped would compliment the bourbon’s existing profile. Today I will be reviewing this release to determine if Town Branch’s first barrel-finished bourbon has been a success or whether it has missed the mark.
Name: Town Branch Bourbon: Sherry Cask Finished
Age: NAS (confirmed as 9 year old)
Proof: 100 Proof (50% ABV)
Type: Finished bourbon
Mashbill: 72% Corn, 15% Malted Barley, 13% Rye
Producer: Town Branch Distillery, Lexington, KY
Nose: The nose is subtle and complex, with deep brown sugar, earthy nuts, black stone fruits like cherries and plums, dry, sweet, and floral sherry with a dash of smoky oak.
Palate: The palate opens with deep butterscotch and smoky oak, followed by fruity sherry notes, dried fruit, dark chocolate, earthy rye, and dark stone fruit.
Finish: The finish opens warm with a kick of sherry notes before dark chocolate, earthy spice, and dark fruit emerge, leaving an aftertaste of charred oak, dry sherry, and anise.
This is hands down the best whiskey I’ve tried from Town Branch. It’s deep, complex, and packed with thick layers of flavour striking the perfect balance between a butterscotch-heavy bourbon and dry fruit-heavy sherry. As you chew it the bourbon itself reminds me of the flavour profile I associate with bourbon made in the 80’s and early 90’s that have what is termed a ‘dusty funk’ – i.e. lots of butterscotch and old oak. The sherry serves to round this out further by adding delicate floral and dried fruit notes like raisins and citrus peel on the palate, and barrel influence throughout. When I first opened this bottle a few months ago my first impressions were that the sherry influence was verging on being the dominant flavour note but with some oxidation this influence seems to have hit the sweet spot that I assume Town Branch had intended it to. Instead of being the dominant flavour the sherry has fallen into its intended supporting role and if I had to place it in order of when it appears on the palate, I’d say it’s the third thing I tasted.
For Town Branch’s first foray into finished whiskey I’d declare this release a great success. It’s the kind of bourbon you’d pour and sit with as you fall through all the levels of flavour it contains. With its release being around the time Dr. Pearse Lyons was inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame I’d say this is a whiskey he would have been very proud of. If in the future Town Branch ever release a bourbon that tastes just like this bourbon I would crunch to get a case or two muled over, it’s that good. Town Branch obviously have some really good whiskey and it’s very clear from this release that their continuing dedication to using a double pot still distillation has resulted in some really good aged product with solid flavours.
Try or Buy?
There’s a chance that this is still available either at select retailers in Lexington or at the distillery itself. Either way I’d highly recommend buying if this sounds like it’s something you would like to try. In my opinion, it’s excellent!