By Richard Thomas
With a visit to the United States on the horizon, I contacted the fine folks at the Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company (usually known as “Town Branch” on the whiskey side, after the Bourbon) about the availability of their new Bourbon Barrel Stout, and they invited me to stop by. That made me curious, since my last visit had been less than a year before, and had covered all the bases. Or at least all the bases I knew about, as I soon discovered when Mark Coffman, the “brewstillery’s” chief engineer and de facto distiller, handed me a small flask containing a sample of their nascent Rye whiskey!
Town Branch’s Rye whiskey is still under development, so much so that they haven’t settled on an official name for it yet. What was handed to me was a far-in-advance sample, with the proof level and even the flavor profile still under consideration, making this look at the future Town Branch Rye a sneak preview, rather than a full review.
I was told the whiskey had a high corn percentage, somewhat in keeping with the pattern set by the distillery’s high-corn Town Branch Bourbon. That showed in the nose, with notes of sweet tobacco and a little musty wood, but only the tiniest hint of Rye spice. In the glass, this new Rye has a mid-amber, bright copper coloring.
The flavor follows from the nose, with sweet tobacco and woody flavors, plus some spice that mixes together into something reminiscent of a thick cookie with a bit of ginger. Just as those flavors come across the threshold and become familiar, the whiskey delivers a solid, spicy kick. When I took my first sip at Lexington Brewing and Distilling, I thought “Ah, there is that Rye!” The finish is spicy, warm, and lingering, winding down with a tobacco barn-like aftertaste.
My experience is that Rye lovers, such as our own S.D. Peters, like their Ryes spicy, but sophisticated. Based on this advance sample, I think the Town Branch Rye will come out with a good measure of sophistication, but perhaps not enough Rye spice for the diehard. What it does have are the qualities that would make it an inspired choice for a serious Bourbon lover to take a step outside his usual purview, and into the Rye side of things in a way that he will find both comfortingly familiar and appreciably exotic at the same time.