Longbranch KSBW; Wild Turkey Distilling Co.; Lawrenceburg, KY; $40/btl
Not content with being Mr. Popular, Matthew McConaughey also wants to be Mr. Whiskey. Thus, he approached the Wild Turkey people and demanded — demanded, I say — to have his name written on a bottle of Wild Turkey.
And that’s it!
Well, not quite. Apparently Mr. McConaughey is a bit of a whiskey connoisseur and wanted to express his love of the golden nectar by bringing his passion to life. And a good thing, too. The resulting product, Longbranch, is something of a sneaker in the world of whiskey. Now, to this average, ordinary, everyday Ken, Wild Turkey as a brand is remembered solely as “the party whiskey”, especially in 101 form. It’s the stuff I pounded by the gallon the night Clyde Drexler finally got his NBA Finals trophy as a Houston Rocket. That night, as the Rockets swept the Magic of Orlando, I was drinking Wild Turkey 101 by the shot(s) and getting plenty far separated from stability.
It was a night to remember, and one that firmly implanted Wild Turkey into my senses as “the whiskey that makes me go BARF!” I didn’t go near the stuff again for something close to 30 years.
Then, earlier this year while taking part in my friend’s Whiskey Wonder Podcast, I had the opportunity to try Longbranch, not knowing it was part of the Wild Turkey family – even with the big “Wild Turkey” printed across the neck of the bottle. For that I’m probably a doofus, but since when does that stop one from pretending to be a whiskey lover? Boy, was I surprised when I learned the truth.
That was several months before I was motivated to start this blog, and now, 4 months later, I’ve decided that Matthew McConaughey’s contribution to the world of whiskey shall indeed have its time at KensBar.org, even if it is from the Wild Turkey people (and don't tell anyone, but there's a bottle of Rare Breed over there, too).
And here’s the rub: Mike, my friend from the podcast, came over and we had a blind tasting. After all, the very best thing you can do to find great whiskey is to have a blind tasting. It’s also the worst thing you can do if you want to tear down a favorite. In other words, blind taste at your own expense, especially if you happen to be honest and/or not a snob.
Well, I’m honest and not a snob, and I try to be consistent with myself and my two readers. The victims of that tasting were Longbranch, Eagle Rare 10-year, and Uncle Nearest 1856. Both Mike and I knew who would be winning that tasting. I knew — knew! — that Eagle Rare was the best whiskey in that group, and Mike knew — knew! — that he had no idea what we were drinking. Only my wife knew the order, and she was mum. Even so, I was certain!
We tasted, swished, swirled, and swallowed (no spittoons at Ken’s Bar) and Mike was certain he recognized one of the whiskies in our test, but he couldn’t place it. Either way, he made note. At the end and well into too much stuff, I knew I had picked the winner: Eagle Rare. It was just so obvious. So, the labels came off and the letters were revealed and …
Longbranch was chosen by both of us as the best whiskey in that tasting, and Mike suddenly knew what he had recognized.
I was shocked. Eagle Rare is smooth as glass, but Longbranch is like butter next to it. Uncle Nearest is loaded with flavor, and it tastes like water with Longbranch in the room.
We had to be sure, though, so we invited my wife to have a taste of all three. Longbranch is now her favorite whiskey, although I think that has more to do with McConaughey’s muscles than his whiskey (actually, she's a pretty good judge of this stuff).
Longbranch is loaded with notes of dark honey, smoked mesquite (a note I only recognized after reading about it), and orange peel, oddly enough. Smooth is a word I use lightly with whiskey. Everyone uses the word differently, whether to do with the slippery-smooth mouth feel, or the lightness of the alcohol as it courses along the side of the tongue and down the throat. I tend to gravitate toward the latter action, as swallowing sand paper doesn’t make me think of “smooth”. Longbranch is an 86-proof jello-shot when it comes to smooth, and I’ll put it up there with Old Rip Van Winkle in that camp.
So, why isn’t Longbranch sitting on my Bottom Shelf instead of Eagle Rare? Well, as I’ve noted several times on this blog, there is more to my love of a great whiskey than just the whiskey, itself. The bottles on the Bottom Shelf have fun stories tied to them, often involving discoveries made with good friends, or significant events, or just plain creative flare. Knowing that, and knowing how I came to enjoy Longbranch, I can definitely say there is a good story tied to it. Not only did I discover it with the help of a friend who knows an awful lot about whiskey, but it also happens to be the partial brainchild of a guy from Texas, where the Houston Rockets play basketball, and where my beloved Clyde Drexler won his first (and only) NBA title.
So, there is a story in there, which is why Longbranch is a firm contender for that coveted placement on the Bottom Shelf at Ken’s Bar. Deciding which bottle it would replace would be tough work. Perhaps I need more than five spots?
EDIT: Oh, what they hay! I had the room, so I upgraded the Bottom Shelf to include Longbranch. Sometimes, you gotta make things happen!
Who is this guy?
I'm just an average, ordinary, everyday Ken, and nothing more. I like wine, whiskey, and beer. I write when I'm bored (and to prove it I've published three books). I like to garden, work with wood, and laugh with family and friends. Ken's Bar is an expression of my enjoyment of adult beverages of all shapes and sizes, but especially whiskey. My tasting notes are as much about stories and connections with people as they are about fluffy, snobbish adjectives. I've tasted a lot of whiskey (including the costs-way-too-much Rip Van Winkle stuff) and decided to start writing about it. Or something. So, sit back and read. If you can.
How do I rank?
Cost per Bottle:
$ - $0-$25
$$ - $26-$50
$$$ - $51-$75
$$$$ - $76-$100
$$$$$ - Over $100
* - Swill. Dump it out.
** - Mix it with coke
*** - A good sipper
**** - Straight from Heaven.
***** - Heaven called and wants its whiskey back!
Shoot me an email with comments, suggestions, or hate mail!