Some states (like my home state, Texas) are seeing a booming trade in the craft and local whiskey industry. Other states still are relatively unknown, with distilleries few and far between. Rock Town is a distillery based in Little Rock, Arkansas that is trying to put their city on the map when it comes to delicious spirits.
Phil Brandon was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1964. Over the years, he worked a series of office jobs, developing an appreciation for whiskey and starting to learn as much as he could about the process of making the spirit. After finding himself unemployed following the Great Recession, Phil decided to give it a shot himself, getting financing from a local bank and opening the doors to his business (the first legal distillery in Arkansas since prohibition) on September 2, 2010.
The distillery got off to a bit of a rocky start, but with the release of their vodka they hit their stride and the distillery now offers a wide variety of spirits including whiskey, bourbon, gin, vodka, and bottled cocktails.
- Learn More: What Is Bourbon Whiskey?
Rock Town Distillery prides itself on being a “grain to glass” local spirit, with all of the corn and rye used in their spirits grown within 125 miles of the distillery and within the state of Arkansas. For this specific bourbon, the distillery starts with 82% corn but also throws in 9% golden promise malted barley from the UK and 9% regular barley.
The grains are cooked and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic beer which is then distilled in batches in their copper hybrid still — a pot still with a short column on top. Following distillation, the spirit is added to newly made charred oak barrels and aged to perfection.
The bottle is pretty standard for a small distillery.
Overall, the bottle is styled like any other liquor bottle, with a large body, straight walls, and a gently sloped shoulder that leads to a medium length neck. There’s a small bulge in that neck to make it easier to handle, and the whole thing is capped off with a synthetic stopper. Setting it apart is that the distillery’s name and location is embossed into the glass, which means that this is a semi-custom job and not just something they pulled out of a warehouse.
The label, again, is pretty standard. I like that it isn’t terribly huge — big enough to catch the eye, but with enough space around the edges to see the liquid inside. There’s some liberal use of metallic gold ink to make it shine and pop a bit, but there’s not a whole lot else going on with the label. You get the distillery name, the product information, and that’s about it. Quick and efficient.
The spirit is a nice dark brown color in the glass, and the aroma coming off it is similarly rich and dark. It has a very malty aspect to it, reminding me of a chocolate chip cookie but with some heavier baking spices and cherry thrown in for good measure.
Taking a sip, that malty aspect is front and center, almost tasting like you just took a big bite out of some nice warm bread with some baking spices. From there, you get a little bit of sweet brown sugar added to the mixture, followed by some darker chocolate tones as the flavors progress. There’s a touch of vanilla near the end as well, and that chocolatey note is what lasts through the finish.
There’s something interesting going on here with the addition of some ice. Usually, I’d expect the darker and richer aspects to be toned down, but somehow they almost seem to be accentuated here.
The baking spices and the dark chocolate are now the two more prominent aspects of the flavor profile, with the brown sugar supporting from the rear. There’s a flash of vanilla and caramel at the front still, but that seems to quickly dissipate. That said, throughout the experience there’s still that malty brown bread note that seems ever present.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
I like darker, richer bourbons when it comes to an old fashioned. The richer flavors in the spirit tend to make for a more complex and interesting drink when combined with the aromatic and herbal bitters — and, thankfully, that’s exactly what has happened here.
As we saw with the added ice, the baking spices and the chocolate flavors are now more prominent in the profile. Those flavors are typically good at mixing with the angostura bitters, and its no different here. It’s a richer, deeper, darker version of an old fashioned that’s almost perfectly balanced in my opinion.
Yep, that’s some good stuff.
There are a couple of things I look for in a Kentucky Mule. First, I’m looking to see that the flavor profile balances out — the bright and bitter ginger beer should be balanced by the sweetness and the depth of the spirit. And, in this case, that’s exactly what’s happening. It’s a nicely balanced flavor that’s a little bit spicy and yet very drinkable.
The one thing I don’t really get here, though, is the second criteria I look for: a unique texture to the cocktail. With a rye (or a high rye content bourbon), there’s normally a black peppery spice that adds some complexity to the experience. In this case, it’s just a smooth and relatively flat finish that you’re left contemplating which, while not bad, could be better.
This is a pleasantly surprising spirit from Arkansas. It’s honestly a richer and darker expression than I was expecting from that grain bill, and the flavors develop and progress nicely as the testing continues. For this price range, I’m pretty happy with it and beyond a few tweaks to my personal preference (like adding some rye), I don’t think there’s much I would change.
|Rock Town Golden Promise Straight Bourbon Whiskey|
Produced By: Rock TownProduction Location: Arkansas, United States
Classification: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $43.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
This bottle certainly keeps its golden promise to the drinker of being delicious.