What Whiskey Dreams Are Made Of
At WhiskyX, sample over 60 brands, including Longbranch, the Matthew McConaughey–Wild Turkey collaboration
by Dan Dunn
Photographs by Joe Underbakke
Matthew McConaughey is many things — an Oscar-winning leading man, philanthropist, indelible catchphrase generator and, as of this month, professor of practice at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas. He’s also a prominent pitchman, perhaps best known for a series of Dada-ist commercials for the Lincoln Motor Company that have spawned some hilarious spoofs on Saturday Night Live. (You’ll definitely want to Google it.)
Since 2016, McConaughey has also partnered with the venerable whiskey producer Wild Turkey. More than just a shill on TV, he’s the company’s creative director, and is actively involved in not only promoting existing whiskies, but also developing new ones. In 2018, he and master distiller Eddie Russell unveiled Longbranch ($40), a small-batch Kentucky bourbon refined with Texas mesquite and oak charcoal.
The whiskey is, to borrow a phrase from Professor McConaughey, alright, alright, alright.
“Longbranch, in its simplest form, is an extended hand, inviting a friend into your family,” said McConaughey. “So 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.”
To give rise to Longbranch’s signature flavor, McConaughey and the Bourbon Hall of Famer Russell spent countless hours over the course of two years tasting and testing a variety of whiskey expressions. In the process, they developed a proprietary system of combining two separate charcoal filtration methods — the first uses charcoal made from American white oak, the second from Texas mesquite wood, which imbue the bourbon with notes of smoky sweetness.
“When we were creating Longbranch we talked at length about how to make a product that represents elements of both Texas and Kentucky,” said Russell, who along with his father Jimmy boasts nearly 100 years of collective experience working at the Wild Turkey distillery. “Our goal was to make a straight bourbon whiskey with a soft sweetness that was still unmistakably Wild Turkey. The result was a bourbon that we both truly enjoy drinking neat and look forward to sharing with others.”
Made with eight-year-old Wild Turkey, the gold-colored Longbranch is rife with pleasant aromas of cherry pie and warm nuts. On the palate you get a mix of sweet tropical fruit and spice, balanced with lingering notes of honey and dried apricots. The whiskey finishes buttery smooth, with a fair bit of smoke and wisps of pepper and toasted oak.
Wild Turkey Longbranch will be among the 60-plus whiskies poured at The WhiskyX, happening Friday September 13 from 6-10 pm at Fair Market (1100 East 5th St). The event will also feature a performance from X Ambassadors, along with some of the area’s best food trucks including Emojis Grilled Cheese Bar, SXSE Food Company, Tamale Addiction, My Granny’s Kitchen and Happy Dance Concessions. For tickets and information visit thewhiskyx.com.