I recently visited several of Lexington. Kentucky’s distilleries. I started with the Town Branch Distillery. Town Branch is the distillery started by Alltech in 2008. I was given the tour by their Master Distiller Mark Coffman. The history, according to Mark, is that Alltech is a firm specializing in yeast products, created by Pearse Lyons and other investors in 1999. In 2005, they purchased Lexington Brewing, with the intent to use the fermentation vats from the brewery at Alltech. It was decided that they would use the facility to make some beer for an event they were hosting and that is when they decided to re-open the brewery. In 2008, they had a chance to purchase some pot stills from Scotland at a bargain price, so they did and they set up the distillery. The distillery is named for the original source of water for the city of Lexington, Town Branch. Pearse Lyons originally wanted to make an Irish-style malt whiskey, but quickly started to make Bourbon and rye as well as the malt whiskey.
We started the tour in the visitor’s center. We crossed the street to Lexington Brewery. This building ferments the grains for their beer and whiskey production. Mark described the history of the brewery and discussed some of the improvements made over the years to the building and the equipment. We then stepped into the tasting room to taste some of the beers. They were all very good and I particularly liked the stout. Next we stepped back across the street to the distillery building.
The distillery consists of two pot stills. It is not a huge production of whiskey by modern standards, but they are making several barrels a day. They have two Bourbon mash bills, a rye mash bill and a malt whiskey mash bill. They use 53 gallon barrels and age them off site at Castle & Key for now, but they are considering building an aging warehouse. We stepped back into the visitor’s center and tasted a few of their products and we left there with four bottles of whiskey. Here are the tasting notes for the Town Branch whiskeys.
Town Branch Single Barrel
Age: Six Years Old
- Mike: Malty with notes of vanilla and a hint of leather and oak.
- Matt: Lots of malt, vanilla and nutmeg spice.
- Mike: Malt with vanilla, a hint of cherries and raspberries, leather and oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry and there is less malt and more vanilla and oak. Tasted with a pecan and some citrus notes come through and the oak is enhanced.
- Matt: A Whopper candy with brown sugar and nutmeg. The dried cranberry brought out notes of citrus and nuts. The pecan enhanced the brown sugar and nutmeg.
- Mike: Long with oak and a little pepper spice. The dried cranberry enhanced the pepper. The pecan made the finish drier with oak and white pepper.
- Matt: Medium long with oak and spice. The dried cranberry made it longer with notes of white pepper. The pecan brought out notes of dry nuttiness and lots of oak.
Town Branch True Cask – A Marriage of Two Bourbon Mash Bills
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Vanilla with notes of citrus and apricots, baking spices and oak.
- Matt: Caramel and vanilla with almond milk and oak.
- Mike: Vanilla, apricots, cinnamon, nutmeg and oak. The dried cranberry reduced the spice and enhanced the vanilla and fruit. The pecan enhanced the vanilla and made the spice more of a peppery spice.
- Matt: Caramel with notes of an almond cream latte with cayenne pepper spice and oak. The dried cranberry brought out some orange citrus notes. The pecan brought out notes of a toasted nut granola bar.
- Mike: Long with oak and spice. The cranberry made it shorter and sweeter with lingering notes of fruit. The pecan enhanced the peppery spice in the finish.
- Matt: Long and spicy with oak and cayenne pepper. The dried cranberry enhanced the cayenne pepper notes and reduced the oak. The pecan made the finish very long with oak and spice.
Town Branch Rye
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Rye grass, vanilla, allspice and oak with a hint of fruitiness.
- Matt: Rye grass, rhubarb, vanilla and allspice.
- Mike: Rye grass, vanilla, cherry fruit, cinnamon and oak. The dried cranberry enhanced the fruit with lots of cherries and berries up front. The pecan reduced the fruit and enhanced the rye grass and oak.
- Matt: Rye grass and herbal field greens with vanilla and peaches. The dried cranberry brought out citrus notes of orange and lemon and rich vanilla. The pecan brought out notes of peach cobbler and almond liquor.
- Mike: Long with oak and spice. The dried cranberry made it longer and spicier. The pecan brought out hints of chocolate.
- Matt:Smooth with notes of oak and allspice. The dried cranberry gave it a pleasant, aromatic finish with oak and spice. The pecan added notes of toasted, spiced nuts.
Town Branch Sherry Cask Finished
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Sherry fruitiness with vanilla, baking spices and oak.
- Matt: Very nutty with caramel and oak.
- Mike: Raisins and cherries with allspice, vanilla and oak. The dried cranberry reduced the fruit and made the spice cinnamon and nutmeg. The pecan enhanced the fruit and made the spice more of a white pepper spice.
- Matt: Burnt caramel, cherries, anise spice and oak. The dried cranberry gave it a red peppery spice note. The pecan made the spice cinnamon.
Finish: Lots of nutty oak wood and spice – anise. The dried cranberry made the spice peppery. The pecan enhanced the nuttiness of the oak wood.
Town Branch Distillery is a “must do” stop on the Bourbon Trail if you are in Lexington, Kentucky. It has both a Bourbon distillery and a brewery, so even if your spouse is not a whiskey drinker, there will be something to taste and enjoy during the visit.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller