Did you say single malt?
Yes, that’s right, a single barrel single malt private selection has hit Wichita for the first time. And it comes in at more than 10 years old and at cask strength! But even more exciting is that it is a 10 year single malt produced in none other than these United States.
Fans of whisk(e)y are undoubtedly familiar with single malt Scotch. These whiskies are produced entirely within the country of Scotland, by a single distillery, comprised of 100% malt (among other requirements). These whiskies are known the world over for their quality and desirability.
American whiskey, however, has no official designation for “single malt,”* and hasn’t (yet) built the reputation enjoyed by Scotch. Town Branch is working to change that.
[*Note – The American Single Malt Whiskey Commission (for which Town Branch’s producer is a member) is working to create a category for American Single Malt whiskey, which would include specific requirements to be met before earning the designation.]
Who is Town Branch? Town Branch is product of Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. in Lexington, Kentucky. They produce beer (including barrel aged beers), Bourbon, Rye and other whiskeys, including a Single Malt, as well as other spirit products. Their Single Malt products are aged at least 7 years in used bourbon barrels.
Prior to choosing this Single Barrel, most of us on our panel had some moderate experience with American malt whiskeys. We have sampled numerous products from American malt whiskey producers, ranging from McCarthy’s to Westland to Stranahans to St. George to Balcones (just to name some of our favorites). But we also brought some fairly significant experience tasting Single Malt Scotches. None of us, however, were prepared for how a 10-year, cask strength American Single Malt might bring characteristics of both American and Scotch Single Malts to the table.
In addition to bringing three of our more experienced malt whiskey drinkers to the pick, to help ensure some credibility of this pick, two of our three Flight Club tasters (Charlie and Jay) participated “blind” in the tasting. They were told that we were considering another single barrel with Tom’s, but they were not told that what sort of product it would be.
We began our tasting with a pour (also done blind) of the standard Town Branch Malt Whiskey, which is (as mentioned) at least 7 years old and bottled at 87 proof. It was approachable and enjoyable, but not something that overwhelmed any of us – too young and too low in proof to really speak to us.
We moved on to Sample #1, which was a 10-year, 2-month Single Barrel Single Malt, at 112.27 proof.
Nose: Dark fruit; dense meat (think roast beef); apple; baking spice; brown sugar.
Palate: Light at the front end, but developing sweet applesauce, apples (including skins) and white wine.
Finish: Long. Lingering dry white wine; metallic; chalk.
Overall: An enjoyable pour, but not quite as balanced as we would have hoped.
Sample #2 was next, at 10 years, 3 months, and 110.32 proof.
Nose: Complex. Floral; dark fruit; strawberry; vanilla yogurt; barnyard hay; barbecued meat (brisket?).
Palate: More barbecued meat (cherry glazed ribs); roasted apple; butter; cream; salt; vanilla ice cream; honeycomb.
Finish: Lingering honeycomb; floral; meat; stewed fruit; dried strawberry; smoke; cream.
Overall: This is quite the complex and rich pour. Although this might be a bit polarizing for some, the uniqueness of this pour with its meatiness paired with the fruit, floral, and cream, is something special. Even if it is not your thing, this one will make you think!
We lastly moved on to Sample #3, which was 101.74 proof, at 9 years, 10 months.
Nose: Funky. Baby wipes; bike tire; unsweetened apple crisp; dandelion.
Palate: Exceptionally creamy. Tart apple crisp. Simple.
Finish: Creamy. Apple crisp; honey; lemongrass.
Overall: While the nose is funky, the overall experience here is very approachable at 101.74 proof. Nothing slaps you in the face here, but nothing also grabs you. It is safe, with a damn good mouthfeel.
Before we reveal the selection to you, a bit more on the “blind” tasting. Only after (a) deciding that one of these would be good enough to put both “Tom’s” and “Flight Club” on a label, and (b) actually agreeing upon which barrel that would be, did we reveal to the blind tasters the origin and brand of the whiskey.
They were each convinced this was a Scotch Whiskey originating from the Speyside region in Scotland. It was different enough that they couldn’t pinpoint the distiller, but the character spoke to them as a Single Malt Scotch. American malts were specifically eliminated as not typically having an age old enough to match this profile. That an American Single Malt Whiskey brought these sorts of flavors at 10 years old “blindsided” all of us!
Sample #2 was our final pick, but not without some deliberation. That deliberation centered not around which barrel we all preferred, but instead over which one did we think would be the best for Tom to carry at Tom’s Wine & Spirits. After some discussion (which was largely without debate), we agreed that our “obligation” was to present that pick that “wowed” us each the most, not which we thought was the “safest.” While polarizing, we felt that Sample #2 was the sample that we were most excited to share with Wichita. That, we felt, satisfied our goal.
We hope you enjoy!
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.