By Richard Thomas
Since Town Branch Distillery brought bourbon distilling back to Lexington, Kentucky for the first time since 1958, a word is in order about the namesake for both the distillery and its flagship product, Town Branch Bourbon. A watercourse crossing downtown Lexington, Town Branch could be said to be literally at the heart of the Bluegrass. You can see this on the very label of Town Branch Bourbon, since it bears an old style rendition of a map of downtown Lexington, with Town Branch running across it in blue.
In the 19th Century, Town Branch was how many Lexingtonians got their water. In my youth, it was that creek full of shopping carts running through the city’s inner industrial and warehouse district, and indeed it is still like that today. From a distilling point of view, the creek ran through an area that was once densely packed with distilleries, the last of which was the James E. Pepper plant. Today, the creek is at the center of a proposal to give Lexington a 2.2 mile greenway connecting downtown to Masterson Station Park.
Town Branch comes in a stout, square bottle with a lovely, rough paper label and a wood and cork stopper. It is certainly the sort of thing that will beautify your liquor shelf. There has been some incorrect information making the rounds about the mashbill for Town Branch, but I was told straight from the source in an interview that will appear on The Whiskey Reviewer next week that the mashbill is 72% corn, 13% rye, and 15% malted barley. The whiskey is bottled at 40% abv.
Once in the glass, the whiskey has the color of brightly polished copper. The nose is clear, and distinctly corn syrup sweet with a dash of a citrus zest in there, and a hint of caramel and oaky woodiness.
The flavor is not quite as sweet as the scent, and is actually a bit dry. It’s light and almost balanced, but I found that dry quality makes it perhaps too crisp and throws it off just a bit. The taste remains corn sweet, but not predominately so, with minor notes of caramel, dried fruit and brown sugar, a heftier helping of oak than the nose might suggest, and a dash of pepper. The finish springs off of a continuing bite of pepper and the woody astringency into a rising, but short wave of warmth.
When I did my brick-and-mortar price check for Town Branch, it was retailing for between $26 and $30 a bottle. This puts it squarely between your run of average bourbons, which hover at around or under $20 a bottle, and your typical small batch stuff, which is usually in the lower to mid-$30s.