At Olde Raleigh Distillery, it is about keeping traditions alive and respecting the conventions of whiskey’s heritage. The McCraney family lineage descended from Scotland to North Carolina in the mid-1800s. In homage to their family roots, Master Blender, Brandon McCraney’s approach to blending bourbon is similar to some prominent Scot Master Blenders that source from the homeland.
The Olde Raleigh approach views the entire United States as its canvass for finding and selecting exceptional bourbon whiskey. Each barrel is hand picked, brought to the distillery, and aged on-site.
From here, our Master Blender continues to evaluate the whiskey maturation using traditional élevage brandy making techniques. In this dynamic approach, the whiskies are developed over time and harvested based on our Master Blender’s understanding of how flavors are evolving, and how they can be blended with others to complement, enhance, deepen, or broaden the profile.
In this process, our Master Blender is actively involved at every stage and that is exactly what Brandon is set out to do. It’s holistic whiskey-making with a story as strong as its roots.
To create the perfect blend, we rely on our variety of whiskey and bourbon barrels that are stored at Olde Raleigh Distillery. Our barrels are sourced from throughout the United States, each with unique facets and qualities. Our master blender works to understand each barrel inside and out. By taking careful notes on each barrel in our inventory, Brandon, our master blender, begins to develop an idea of which flavor profiles would pair nicely with one another. Our inventory contains different flavors, notes, and characteristics that help transform our whiskey blends.
When you sign up for a whiskey tour, you will learn about where our barrels are sourced, and what goes into blending the perfect bourbon. Book a tour below.
Our process is still far from over. Aging is a crucial step in bringing out the flavors and notes in our blends. As part of this process, our master blender chars wood cut from a 130-year-old oak tree from Wake County and rests it with the barrels stored in our warehouse. Toasting and charring, along with many other variables, can strongly impact the whiskey’s flavor profile in the barrel.
All our barrels are stored in an unconditioned space during the aging process. This allows the whiskey inside the barrels to contract and expand depending on the temperature and season; each giving way to an evolving flavor profile. While the barrels in our inventory have already begun their aging process, they continue at Olde Raleigh Distillery. Over a period of time, the whiskey will soak in the flavor and color of the barrels. We like to have a variety of ages in stock to provide the perfect catalog of profiles for our master blender to concoct new and exciting flavors.
Everything is done by hand here, including our blending.
Some whiskies aging in our barrels have ideal flavor profiles that spark in the colder months versus the hotter months, so it takes our master blender and his expert palate to pull those flavors together. Identifying these trends and rolling them into our overall batching process is key to creating a successful blend. By keeping tasting notes on every barrel in our warehouse, our master blender is able to test multiple mixes by blending an ounce or two at a time until he lands on a winner.
Blending is an ongoing process. Trying to own what the flavor profile is, is the challenge. Knowing how the flavors within the barrels are evolving is a very methodical process that takes patience, time, and attention to detail. Each batch takes 1-3 months to pull together, and that’s intentional. Once the barrels are dumped, we ensure each marries together with the ultimate flavor profile. We slowly lower the proof level from 118 to 93 by adding water. This process takes time but allows for consistent sampling and tasting of the blend to ensure those flavors are coming together. Once we’re at 93 proof, we’ll do a final filtration to get the last small particles and sediments out of the batch.
After the long process of blending a new batch, it’s time for the customers to come sample and taste the new bourbon. Our master blender is an artist when it comes to creating damn good whiskey, but we always leave it up to the patrons to decide which batches they like. Olde Raleigh Distillery releases several batches a year, including some specialty blends. Explore the flavors and tasting notes of Our Bourbon.