By Jake Emen
You don’t mess with Texas. But can you mess with Texas bourbon? Considering that Ranger Creek .36 Texas Bourbon Whiskey is named for a revolver – the .36 caliber pistol that Texas Rangers toted around the frontier – maybe we had best not. Nevertheless, we’ll give it a shot, and assume for our purposes that we won’t actually get shot in the process. When it is released, the Ranger Creek big barrel straight bourbon whiskey will actually at its core be the same exact bourbon, just aged for a longer period of time.
Ranger Creek .36 is the 2011 release of the Ranger Creek Small Caliber Series (SCS). The SCS is all about craftiness — small barrel maturation, limited distribution, hand-labeling and the incorporation of hopefully unique and innovative flavors or processes. The small barrel part is currently a popular experiment among many bourbon-makers, and is typically seen as a way to speed up the aging process. Ranger Creek plans to release a more traditional big barrel straight bourbon whiskey as its standard label, which at its core will be the same whiskey, but aged for longer and in a more typical size of charred, new oak barrel.
Ranger Creek .36 utilizes local ingredients, adding to the score on its two big points: this is craft, and this is Texas. I obtained Bottle #1,082 from Batch 8, summer 2011, aged for 9 months “under the Texas sun” with a 48% alcohol content by volume (96 proof). If you thought bourbon came only from the Bluegrass, or didn’t think your bourbon could be made with “attitude,” a bottle of Ranger Creek .36 is here to tell you otherwise. again, considering its etymology, you may not want to argue too emphatically here.
My immediate thought upon my first sip is that this bourbon isn’t shy. It comes and bites you a bit, with a strong, bold initial blast of flavor. It’s not a ragged burn, though, there’s an overarching sweetness to those big flavors.
Ranger Creek is even sweeter on the nose, offering hints of brown sugar and caramel. It’s balanced by a spicy taste and finish, dotted with cinnamon and pepper.
From start to finish, it really is quite pleasant, and I could easily envision many a chilly autumn or frigid winter evening being warmed up with a glass of Ranger Creek. I enjoyed it, I would have it again, and I’ll look forward to future SCS releases, as well as the full big barrel release.
Produced in San Antonio, TX, Ranger Creek is available for purchase from local retailers and bars throughout that grand ol’ state, from San Anton to Dallas and Houston. Suggested retail is $34.99 for a 375 ml bottle. Next up in the SCS, the 2012 release will become available this fall. The big barrel Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey will be available in 2013-2014.