By Father John Rayls
The Ranger Creek .36 Small Batch (5 gallon barrel) Bourbon has been racking up the awards in head to head competition. The .36 Single Barrel Bourbon (25 gallon barrel) is the exact same grain bill. The only differences are the size of the barrels and the amount of time spent aging in our South Texas heat. The 25 gallon barrel bourbon is now putting together some major awards of its own and was just awarded a gold medal and named Best of Show and Best in Class from the American Craft Spirits Association for the 2014 release. It’s all made from 70% Texas corn, 16% rye and 14% barley. My bottle of Ranger Creek .36 Single Barrel came from the class of 2015 and there were only two barrels released making about 180 bottles. Yours truly was the very happy recipient of about the only bottle left on the planet and labeled barrel S06 and bottle #3. This beauty had been aged 4 years and six months making it the oldest bourbon aged in Texas. At 96 proof, this is a bourbon that is destined to grab your attention. Of course as a single barrel bourbon, each one will have its own unique character.
Different from almost all the other Ranger Creek releases, the Single Barrel Bourbon comes in the 750ml bottle rather than the smaller 350ml bottles which they use for most of the rest of their whiskey offerings. 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. You won’t be disappointed. This isn’t an over-powering bourbon and neither 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 very enjoyable. Ranger Creek smokes their grain themselves for their single malt and makes it a very specific Texas experience. They use Texas Mesquite to make it even more identified with Texas. It’s not a part of the bourbon experience, but is lurking almost silently in the background as you can experience it walking around the distillery sipping their bourbon. This is a quiet whole mouth experience with flavors of caramel, sweet cereal grains and smokey oak. The nose leads directly to the taste. It’s a higher proof bourbon that even rare partakers can drink neat, but experienced bourbon drinkers will find nuanced and interesting. I don’t find it to be complex, but still filled with sufficient interesting trails for even the most experienced connoisseurs of bourbon. 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, it would retail in the $75.00 range if you could actually find a bottle. You can check out Ranger Creek Brewstillery on this site for more information and don’t hesitate to sign up for all of their written communications. There’s always next year.