If you wanted to throw some shade at the celebrity-brand collaboration booze that’s entered the market in the last few years, it’s tough to do that with Wild Turkey’s Longbranch. It’s a mellow, accessible whiskey from a company that needed one, and A-list star Matthew McConaughey helped make it.
Celebrity brand ambassadors come and go, but McConaughey has been with Wild Turkey in the capacity of creative director for a couple years now. And it seems like he’s been working to make his own bottle the whole time.
According to the company, Longbranch has been in the works for most of this period, going through numerous iterations before finally hitting shelves this spring. Longbranch isn’t really a new concept—really it’s just a finishing process on the tail end of good whiskey making—and it has roots in another classic American whiskey style from another state: Tennessee.
Tennessee whiskey is, for all intents and purposes, bourbon. It’s made with 51 percent or more corn, bourbon style. The key difference is the Lincoln County Process: a charcoal filtration. Brands like Dickel and Jack Daniel’s make maple charcoal, and filter their freshly distilled whiskey through the charcoal before it hits the barrel.
What’s interesting to note here is that Gentleman Jack, one of the smoothest American whiskeys on the market, is actually filtered twice: once before the barrel and once as it leaves the barrel.
Longbranch takes this finishing process and, arguably, improves on it: 8-year-old Wild Turkey Bourbon is filtered through charcoal made from a mixture of white oak (what whiskey barrels are made of) and mesquite wood from Texas.
The process results in a mellowed whiskey with a hint of smoke. It’s a lovely bourbon (with modifications) that takes the potent potable nature of Wild Turkey and makes it more accessible.
We even included it in our list of celebrity spirits that are actually worth trying.
Now honestly, it’s not an end-of-night bottle. For veteran drinkers it might not even be a regular on the shelf. But in the morning, to start off a long night, or to make your whiskey novice friends see that not everything has to be a palate punisher, this is one great pour.
It sounds like that was the intention McConaughey had when they sat down to make a bottle. In a statement, McConaughey said, “Longbranch, in its simplest form, is an extended hand, inviting a friend into your family. The branch that was extended to me from the Russells was a long one, one that reached from Kentucky to Texas and back again. I offered the Mesquite from my great state to add to their legendary Kentucky whiskey and together we made Longbranch.”
At $40 a bottle, having this on your bar is a gift to your less hardcore friends and family. And on the porch on a summer day, neat, in the afternoon, it tastes alright, alright, alright.