Pearse Lyons, the man behind the animal health and nutrition company, Alltech, apparently knows a thing or two about distilling whiskey. Lyons is formally educated (Masters Degree) in brewing and distillation, with a Phd. in yeast fermentation. According to the latest edition of “The Bourbon Review” magazine, Lyons’ knowledge of yeast fermentation actually spawned the idea for Alltech in the early 1980’s, which began by developing animal supplements and feed.
In recent years, Lyons Spirits released a malt whiskey (Pearse Lyons Reserve), and now their latest, Town Branch Bourbon. Town Branch is actually made with a pretty unique grain bill of 51% corn (right at the legal limit for bourbon) and 49% malted barley. This is unusual for a number of reasons. Most notably because bourbon typically contains at least some percentage of wheat or rye depending on what the distiller is going for in the flavor profile.
Let’s put this one through its paces a bit…….
Color: Town Branch’s medium golden hue is perhaps a clue (in hindsight) as to the softness that ensues on the nose and palate.
Nose: Soft, overly ripe banana, flint, caramel corn, stale pancake syrup, hints of butterscotch, and dry oak veneer.
Palate: Candy corn, butterscotch, rum soaked golden raisins, and disjointed oak running a few paces behind. “Where’s the beef?!?!”
Finish: The finish works hard to perk things up a shade with white pepper and nutmeg, but it’s a flash in the pan, and quickly smothered with the remnants of caramel corn and toast.
Overall: Town Branch is not a very memorable or complex bourbon, but it’s not below average either. The problem is pretty simple – it’s just too hard to pay attention to an average product when there’s so many excellent whiskeys in this price range. At only four years old or so, perhaps more time would add much needed zip. I do know that a healthy increase in proof would help to concentrate the flavors a bit. That is the part that shocks me most – releasing Town Branch at at a pedestrian 80 proof (40% alcohol). Perhaps it was intentional to align with a softer, smoother style. If so, then I suppose I can understand that, but it hints of “mailing it in” a little. Availability outside of Kentucky is limited as I understand, but getting better.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.0 (Good/Solid)