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September is Bourbon Heritage Month and the month almost got away from me. But, I just had to give a shoutout to Bending Branch and their new line of bourbon, which they released earlier this year. Yes, the Tannat House is now making bourbon! After wine, bourbon is definitely my second love. I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Bending Branch bourbon on a couple of occasions and I’m so excited about what they are doing.

Being native Kentuckians, Bending Branch Winery CEO Dr. Bob Young and daughter and President Alison Young decided to bring some of their Kentucky Bourbon Country heritage to Texas. They launched two distinct Bending Branch bourbon brands – Bending Branch 1840 and ChickenDuck. Alison is the Master Blender and was the brainchild behind this expansion of the Young family beverage brand.

Bending Branch 1840 Bourbon

The Bending Branch 1840 brand features a Kentucky straight bourbon ($120) and a high rye bourbon whiskey ($75), both aged for a minimum of four years in new American charred oak barrels, that Alison and Dr. Bob have sourced over the last two years for additional aging and bottling in Texas. The name ‘1840’ pays homage to the year the Bending Branch Winery property was settled and to the original log cabin home on the property.

The 108 proof high rye bourbon offers aromas of vanilla, orangesicle and crème brûlée and opens to caramel and orange cordial on the palate. I should note that my bourbon descriptions are not on the level of my wine descriptions, so I’m “borrowing” from Bending Branch. The four-grain bourbon features a unique 4-grain (yep) mash bill created by Dr. Bob and features corn, rye, malted barley, and wheat. This was probably tied for my favorite bourbon I tasted when I visited. It is a small batch blend of three barrels, bottled at barrel strength of 109 proof and offers vanilla, brown butter, caramel and orange cream.

The lineup of Bending Branch bourbon.

Bending Branch ChickenDuck

So what’s in a name, you ask? The ChickenDuck bourbon is named after two of the original chickens and ducks that roamed the vineyard as part of Bending Branch’s pest management process. And yes, they also entertained visitors as any good chicken or duck should. Bending Branch makes both a high rye and a wheated ChickenDuck bourbon. Both retail for $42 and are great for folks just getting into bourbon or for those nights when I want an “easy” sip of bourbon. The rye offers up classic caramelized sugar and baking spices but also features some herbaceousness and pepper. Now, I’m a sucker for a wheated bourbon as I enjoy a mellow, sweeter bourbon with a more rounded mouthfeel when I’m either making a cocktail or not planning to linger too long over the glass. This was such a tasty sip and it really boggled my mind that both of these were aged for a year or less.

And yes, there’s a reason for the aging. Given what we know about Dr. Bob, of course we shouldn’t be surprised that there’s some innovation in the making of ChickenDuck bourbon. After all, it was Dr. Bob that expanded my vocabulary and introduced me to winemaking techniques such as cryo-maceration and flash deténte, that in a nutshell help to get the best out of wine grapes. The ChickenDuck bourbons use an advanced extraction technology that give them the qualities of bourbons that have been aged for multiple years. Dr. Bob also pointed out to me that ChickenDuck has less of an environmental impact than traditional bourbon whiskeys because of the extraction technology, reduction in barrel storage time and costs, and its almost complete reduction in evaporation loss (“Angel’s Share”).

Getting a Taste

Flights of four tastings are available daily at the Bending Branch tasting room. And yes, I highly recommend this experience – along with the wine of course.

The bourbons are also available in limited retail outlets (primarily Spec’s for you Texas peeps) as well as available for shipping to a number of states.

Happy Bourbon Heritage Month and cheers to Bending Branch bourbon!

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