Rock Town Column Still Collection Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes

On April 15th, 2023, Rock Town Distillery will release its newest Bourbons, the Column Still Collection. The grains come from Arkansas. Usually, distillation would occur right there in Little Rock. However, in this case, those grains were shipped to Bardstown Bourbon Company in Kentucky on its column still. The whiskey was then transported back to Little Rock for on-site aging.


But, who, or what, is Rock Town Distillery? In 2009, Phil Brandon left corporate America. In 2010, he and his wife, Diana, built a distillery in Little Rock to offer the highest-quality distilled spirits at an affordable price.


Rock Town makes a variety of whiskeys, vodkas, liqueurs (including a Bourbon Cream), as well as a gin. You can peruse all of what it offers on its website.


The big release is not your average gathering. Rock Town has billed it as The Rock Town Road Trip. Starting at 11am at the distillery, the first 50 people who buy a bottle will also receive a swag bag. Then, the Barrel and Bung Games begin. Phil will sign bottles, and there will be whiskey and snack pairings along with food trucks. Finally, at 7pm, Phil will lead a ticketed Master Class.


Today I’m reviewing the three whiskeys included in the release: a Small Batch Straight Bourbon, a Toasted French Oak Barrel Finish Straight Bourbon, and a Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Bourbon. Before I can do that, I must thank Rock Town Spirits for providing me with samples in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews.


Let’s #DrinkCurious. 


Small Batch Straight Bourbon



The mashbill is 79% Arkansas corn, 8% Arkansas wheat, and 13% malted barley. This Bourbon aged for 34 months in new, charred oak barrels, then packaged at 46% ABV (92°). You can expect to pay about $39.99 for a 750ml.


Appearance: This Bourbon was a brilliant orange-amber in my Glencairn glass. A thicker rim formed syrupy tears.


Nose: An aroma of corn, cherry, marshmallow, and nougat wafted from the glass. When I drew the air through my lips, I found cherry vanilla.


Palate: I sipped this neat. A thin, oily texture greeted my tongue. Flavors of corn and vanilla were on the front of my palate. The middle tasted of tobacco leaf, while the back featured clove, black pepper, and dry oak.


Finish: Tobacco leaf, black pepper, clove, and dry oak created an extremely long, spicy finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: At 92°, the assumption would be this Bourbon would be an easy-sipper. I was also surprised at how heavy of an oak influence it possessed. It drank way above its stated proof. There wasn’t much depth to it. I believe this fairly deserves a Bar rating.




Toasted French Oak Barrel Finish Straight Bourbon



The mashbill is 79% Arkansas corn, 8% Arkansas wheat, and 13% malted barley. It rested for 34 months in new, charred oak barrels before being transferred to toasted French oak casks. A 50% ABV (100°) 750ml bottle costs $69.99.


Appearance: Poured neat, this Bourbon had a deep reddish hue in my Glencairn glass. The medium rim formed long, thick legs.


Nose: There was no doubt French oak was involved. I smelled cherries, plums, caramel, and the requisite tannins. A smoky sensation crawled across my tongue when I inhaled the air past my lips.


Palate: The silky mouthfeel introduced my palate to cocoa nibs and dusty corn flavors. I tasted dark chocolate can caramel in the middle. The back consisted of clove, nutmeg, and smoked oak.


Finish: The entire palate remained on the finish, which was medium-long in duration.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Like the Small Batch Bourbon, the Toasted French Oak Barrel Finish was warm and spicy. The smokey quality was welcome; it added a touch of depth that the Small Batch lacked. However, $69.99 is steep for what’s in the glass. This, too, earns my Bar rating.




Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Bourbon



Their 79% Arkansas corn, 8% Arkansas wheat, and 13% malted barley recipe aged for 34 months in a single barrel before being hand-selected by Phil Brandon. My sample is from barrel 81 and weighs 57% ABV (114°). You’ll pay $59.99 for a 750ml package.


Appearance: I drank this neat from my Glencairn glass; as I observed its caramel appearance, I took notice of its thin rim and crooked, meandering tears.


Nose: A bouquet of field corn, molasses, oak, and leather touched my nostrils. My mouth encountered leather when I pulled the air through my lips.


Palate: The front provided tastes of toasted oak, corn, and dark chocolate introduced my palate to an oily mouthfeel. Caramel and cherries could be found at the midpoint, trailed by leather and tobacco on the back.


Finish: Old leather, toasted oak, dark chocolate, and tobacco remained for a medium duration.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Interestingly, this cask strength Bourbon was less bold than its Small Batch counterpart. It drank a few points below its stated proof. And while it was more flavorful, it still lacked any real depth. Is this a $60.00 whiskey? Probably, yes. But I also can’t picture myself gravitating to it, given the many other similarly priced options. As such, it, too, takes my Bar rating.


Final Thoughts: Trying this at various proofs means that’s not what caused the shallowness of flavors. The mashbill shouldn’t lead to that, although I admit I’ve never had whiskey made from Arkansas-grown grains before.


The good news is that if you head to the distillery on the 15th, you can likely taste these for yourself. If I were to purchase only one, it would be the Single Barrel Cask Strength. Cheers!




My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.