“Live” from the Newly Launched Bourbon Distillery at Bending Branch Winery
Kentucky Roots and Texas Bred
This week I was excited to visit Bending Branch Winery and learn about its newest venture—it is now also a distillery! Out of their mutually shared interest in quality bourbon, Bending Branch Winery CEO, Dr. Bob Young, MD, and his daughter and President, Alison Young, brought some of their Kentucky Bourbon Country heritage to Comfort, Texas. They just announced their launch of two new Bourbon brands, Bending Branch 1840 and ChickenDuck, each with two different mash bills with distinctive flavors. From a beautiful tasting room at Bending Branch, I interviewed Alison Young and asked, “What was the genesis for you and your father, Dr. Bob Young, for getting into the distillery business?” She replied, “The 1840 Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskies pay homage to the year the Bending Branch Winery property was settled and to Dr. Bob Young’s Kentucky family upbringing 90 miles from Louisville, Harrodsburg, Ky. These spirits are available at Bending Branch Winery, Comfort, Texas and will soon be in Texas retail stores. Soon to be announced – a very rare 14-year-old bourbon.
Wine Wanderings is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
“We wanted to bring our family heritage from Kentucky here to Texas, and we adore bourbon. After successfully growing the Bending Branch Reputation for quality exceptional wines and experiences, we are excited to expand the Young family of beverage brands.” – Allison Young, President and Master Blender of Bending Branch.
What are the Requirements for Bourbon?
Bourbon is primarily made of corn – between 51-79% along with other grains such as rye and wheat. It can be made in any US state. Bourbon must be aged in new, charred American oak barrels, and straight bourbon is aged for at least two years. The corn content and aging process yield a spirit that tastes sweeter than other types of whiskey with strong toasted coconut and caramel flavors. Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey requires that the mash bill includes at least 51% corn, be a minimum of 80 proof, and barreled at greater than 125 proof. This bourbon must be aged at least a year in Kentucky to be labeled a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
The Characteristics of Quality Distilleries
The number of US distilleries is growing (2230 in 2020). Quality craft distilleries (craft is defined as fewer than 750,000 gallons per year and independently owned an operated) around the world share some distinct characteristics, and in the case of bourbon these include:
*Use of Local Grains
*Signature Mash Bills (recipes)
*Great tasting rooms
*Newly charred American oak barrel aging
*100-200-year family traditions
*Easy drinking flavors and aromas
*Entertainment, tasting opportunities, and events, like Bending Branch’s annual (11th) Kentucky Derby Party (May 6, 2023) – Join the hat parade!
*A Master Distiller/Master Blender is in-house.
Bending Branch Leads in Technology Innovation (Once Again)
Dr. Bob Young has had his hands on the pulse of new wine technology for decades. His much-awarded, quality wines have also been known to be high in antioxidants. See our interview, “Have a Healthy Wine: Bending Branch Winery, An Interview with Dr. Bob Young.” It was not surprising to see that Dr. Bob has embraced/invented new advanced extraction technology for pushing the edge on bourbon as well. In referring to their ChickenDuck brand, Young stated,
“Our technology mimics aging characteristics and makes it taste older than it is. We like to celebrate tradition but embrace new methods.”
This technology is also environmentally friendly, including the reduction of evaporation of the alcohol or “Angel’s Share,” and reduction in barrel storage time with its associated costs.
Best of Tasting:
1840 Bending Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - $95 – Four Grain
This 4-grain mash bill includes: 64% corn, 12% rye, 12% malted barley, 12% wheat, Bending Branch’s signature mash bill. This is a small-batch blend of three barrels, revealing flavors and aromas of vanilla buttercream, caramel, rich brown butter, and tangerine peel. I liked to slow sip with a large ice cube.
1840 Bending Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - $75 – High Rye
This is a higher-rye bourbon with scents of vanilla, orangesicle, and crème brûlée which open up to flavors of caramel and orange cordial.
These two bourbons are crafted using sustainable methods and feature two mash bills with both “Wheated” and “High Rye” blends. Alison and Dr. Bob are committed to excellence in everything they do, and sometimes they have too much fun along the way ... and in waddles ChickenDuck brand….representing the birds frequently seen roaming Bending Branch.
Thanks to photographers Brian and Wendy Hatfield for their photos, video, and tasting notes.
Wine Wanderings Editorial Calendar
Message in the Bottle – A Book Review and Interview with Tim Gaiser, MS
Salvation Spirits, Gin, Vodka, and Brandy Excellency
Speakeasy Exclusive Cocktails
Celebrity Wines: What’s New from 19 Crimes: Martha Stewart and. Snoop Dog
New Zealand: 1% of World’s Wine but Packs a Punch
Famous NZ Wine Regions and Recommendations
Book Review: The Wines of the Southwest