The bourbon and branch is a classic approach to appreciating the distinct yet smooth flavors of bourbon, allowing individuals to appreciate their Kentucky whiskey in a simple and sophisticated way... 

 bourbon and branch

A particular type of American whiskey, bourbon has a long and traditional history in the United States. Bourbon was born in Kentucky and holds a close connection to the Bluegrass State. While this spirit is used in several cocktails, such as the old fashioned and the bourbon sour, many simply wish to enjoy the unique flavor and characteristics of traditional bourbon whiskey. 

What Is a Bourbon and Branch?

The classic bourbon and branch is simply a mix of bourbon whiskey and plain water. Why is this drink called a bourbon and branch and not a bourbon and water? Many distilleries in Kentucky were built on streams, making it convenient when they needed water to create the final whiskey product. Branch water that was used in the distillation process was named after the branch or stream from which the water was drawn.

When this drink was ordered before the turn of the century, bartenders would pour bourbon whiskey into a glass and add a bit of the same branch water to cut the whiskey, creating what we now call the bourbon and branch.

What Is Branch Water?

Branch water used in making a bourbon and branch originates from the underground limestone shelf, also known as an aquifer, that can be found in most of Kentucky as well as parts of Tennessee. As rainwater or melted snow passes into the aquifer, the limestone naturally filters out any iron or trace minerals, giving the branch water its characteristic lack of flavor. Water with extra minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, or iron, can discolor the bourbon and affect the whiskey-making process. The water then moves out of the aquifer, forming a mineral-free branch of water that feeds many whiskey distilleries.

Why Add Water to Bourbon?

The bourbon and branch has been around since the 1800s and is making a comeback. It was even featured in the James Bond movie "Diamonds Are Forever," where Bond ordered a bourbon and branch rather than his famous shaken martini. Here's why adding branch water to bourbon enhances this American whiskey's flavor:

Smooth on the Palate

With its almost flavorless taste, branch water is the perfect mixer for bourbon. It's smooth on the palate and adds a velvet finish to the cocktail. A bourbon and branch is an ideal way to savor the unique qualities of bourbon without making drastic changes to its flavor.

Releases More Flavors

Any master distiller will tell you that by proofing down bourbon with a little branch water, you can release more of its natural aromas. Branch water opens up the whiskey by toning down the sting of the drink and releasing flavors such as caramels and vanillas.

Clean and Refreshing

The bourbon and branch is a satisfying, delicious, and remarkably simple drink. When brought to its most basic elements, it's nothing more than whiskey with water. What gives it a clean and refreshing flavor is the use of branch water. By adding the same water that was used in the bourbon distillation process, you get a clean and refreshing drink that enhances the bourbon's flavor.

How Is the Bourbon and Branch Made?

In most bars and distilleries across the country, the bourbon and branch is made the same way as when it was first created in the 1800s. Rather than using only branch water and whiskey specific to each Kentucky distillery, bartenders now use a wide range of bourbons and water to create this classic drink. We recommend beginning with 2 ounces of bourbon and a splash of water. From there, you can adjust the ratios to your liking.

Types of Bourbon

The type of bourbon used to make a bourbon and branch depends on the flavors you wish to experience. If you're looking for a traditional bourbon, our Cavehill Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey fits the bill. It's made from our four-grain signature mash and has aromas of spice, fresh apples, honey, mint, and creamy orange that evolve into vanilla and custard.

Our Heigold Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a Southern sweetness layered with peppery notes that matures into a deep caramel hue with flavors of butterscotch and baking spices. This whiskey is created using imported German rye and has a high proof of 95, making it the perfect complement for a bourbon and branch. The Dareringer Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a modern yet charming whiskey with hints of cherry and sherry. This fine whiskey rests in hand-made Pedro Ximenez Sherry Casks from Spain's Casknolia Cooperage.

Types of Water

While branch water is the ideal mixer for a bourbon and branch, several types of quality water can provide you with the same experience. If you're a traditionalist and must have real branch water, many distilleries bottle and sell their branch water. This is typically a more expensive way to appreciate this classic drink. Other varieties of water you can experiment with include volcanic rock-filtered water from Fiji, artesian water from Hawaii's natural springs, and limestone-rich mineral water. You can use any variety of mineral, artesian, distilled, or spring water.

Choosing the cleanest water available is just as important as the water's source. Clean and pure, fresh mineral, spring, or filtered water is essential to a fine bourbon and branch drink. If you're not sure how much water to add, try pouring whiskey over one or two ice cubes made from the water you selected. Allow the ice to melt a bit before drinking.

Of course, there's no right or wrong way to drink a bourbon and branch. It truly depends on your personal tastes. Check out the bourbon whiskeys we feature at Rabbit Hole, and try them with different types of water. With the barrel-aged bourbons from Rabbit Hole and a multitude of mineral, spring, and artesian water available, we know you'll soon discover a bourbon and branch cocktail that is just right for you.

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