By Father John Rayls
The Ranger Creek .36 Small Batch (5 gallon barrel) Bourbon had already racked up awards in head to head competition. The newer Single Barrel Bourbon is the exact same grain recipe—70% Texas corn, 16% rye and 14% barley 70% Texas corn, 16% rye and 14% barley—with the only differences being the size of the barrels and the amount of time spent aging in our South Texas heat.
While still a small barrel bourbon, the size for the .36 Single Barrel has been increased to 25 gallon barrels. The 2014 release won Best of Show and Best in Class from the American Craft Spirits Association.
The 2015 version came from just two barrels yielding just 180 bottles, and they tell me mine was the last one available on the planet, that labeled barrel S06 and bottle #3. At 4 1/2 years old, it’s billed as the oldest bourbon made in Texas, and was bottled at 96 proof.
Another difference with other Ranger Creek releases, the .36 Single Barrel Bourbon comes in the 750ml bottle rather than the smaller 350ml bottles used previously, reflecting the bigger barrels behind it.
The labeling adds to the aged appearance, particularly, when viewed with the bottle full of the dark brown bourbon with reddish tints. The nose is subtle with hints of sweet cereal grain and notes of caramel mixed with light smokey oak. It takes a little longer to find it, but it’s appealing and inviting.
The long legs will grab your attention and will lead you to expect a light coating of the mouth, and in that you won’t be disappointed. This is a quiet whole mouth experience with flavors of caramel, sweet cereal grains and smokey oak. This isn’t an over-powering bourbon, and nor is there any alcohol burn even at 96 proof. Instead, you get a very smooth experience in the best sense of that expression. I tend to prefer a little more bite, but this is still very enjoyable.
The .36 Single Barrel is a higher proof bourbon that even newbies can drink neat, but experienced bourbon drinkers will find nuanced and interesting. I don’t think of it as complex, but filled with sufficient interesting trails for even the most experienced enjoyer of bourbon to follow. The finish is soft and lingering.
Unfortunately, the 2015 release is gone. (I begged to buy more! Imagine George Castanza asking “Was that wrong?”) However, there’s always next year, and were there more it would retail in the $75.00 range.