Over the course of the last year, Smoke Wagon has been a brand that has continuously shown up, but I’ve never looked in to. Well, that changes today. We’re finally going to do a Smoke Wagon Bourbon Review to find out what all the hype is about. In this article, we’re going to discuss a bit about the company and distillery behind the whiskey, it’s taste, price, and more.
As a note, this is a review of the entry level Smoke Wagon Straight Bourbon. Look for us to do a review of their Small Batch Bourbon in the near future – especially if this is as good as people say.
Smoke Wagon Bourbon History
Aaron Chepenik and Jonathon Hensleigh met at a bar in LA in 2004 and immediately became friends. After a couple years, they opened up a bar together called The Griffin. After a couple years of late nights spent drinking whiskey at their bar, they decided they could create their own spirits. So, in 2012, Nevada H&C Distilling became the first distillery in the city of Las Vegas.
While they are a distillery, they source their whiskey from MGP. MGP is one of the largest suppliers of spirits and are known for their rye and high-rye bourbon mashbills. Chepenik and Hensleigh are also the owners of a brand known as Silver Dollar American Vodka.
Smoke Wagon Bourbon Whiskey Overview
- Spirit: Blended Straight Bourbon
- Owned By: Nevada H&C Distilling
- Distilled By: MGP
- Age: Minimum 4 years
- ABV: 46.25%, 92.5 Proof
- Mashbill: 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malted barley
The first thing to note is that Smoke Wagon is sourced from MGP. MGP has a limited number of mash bills, so we know which one they are using here. It’s the high-rye bourbon mash that contains 36% rye. The whiskey is aged by Nevada H&C Distilling for a minimum of 4 years. We know that because it’s a straight bourbon, and it lacks an age statement. In order to legally have a NAS (No Age Statement) bottle, it must be a minimum of 4 years.
On the front of the Smoke Wagon Whiskey bottle, there are two revolvers – the logo for Smoke Wagon. These two revolvers are 1873 Colt single action army revolvers, other known as smoke wagons. The Smoke Wagon is known as the gun that won the west, and is now the namesake of this praised bourbon.
Around the crossing revolvers, a phrase reads, “Bibamus Moriendum Est”. This Latin phrase from Seneca – one of my favorite philosophers – translates to ‘Let us drink, for we must die’. While the stoics, along with Seneca, preached temperance, we can see that Seneca simply means to enjoy life because we won’t be alive much longer.
Smoke Wagon Bourbon Tasting Notes
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, we can get to the important information. Is Smoke Wagon good bourbon? What does it taste like? Now, for my favorite part… We drink, for we must review!
Nose: Caramel and charred oak are the most prominent aromas here, a little cinnamon and ethanol round things out.
Taste: Caramel and rye spice are immediately noticeable. There’s some dark fruit and nutty notes that work it’s way in as well. It definitely has a little more range than the nose let on.
Finish: Honey and cinnamon spice fade away with a nutty undertone.
Initially, I expected this to be a very basic bourbon based on the nose. While there weren’t any huge curveballs, there was more complexity than I expected. Smoke Wagon Bourbon could benefit from a little extra aging, but I suppose that’s where there small batch bourbon comes into play. For their entry level bourbon, this is a solid start.
Smoke Wagon Bourbon Price
As we mentioned, Smoke Wagon Straight Bourbon is the entry level whiskey for Smoke Wagon, and it’s a good start. However, what price do you have to pay to break into this respected bourbon brand? We’ll take a look at prices from various Total Wine stores from across the country to determine an average price.
Smoke Wagon Straight Bourbon Whiskey Price: $30-35
Smoke Wagon isn’t the most available of whiskeys on the market. It is usually available in the west, but a lot of Midwest and east coast stores won’t have Smoke Wagon stocked. If you’re looking for pricing on their small batch, it usually starts around the $60 price point for the next step up.
There are a lot of good whiskeys and bourbons around the $30-35 price range. That’s a good thing and bad thing for Smoke Wagon Bourbon. It’s good because its very fairly priced. The downside is that it’s an extremely competitive market. It’s not my favorite $30 bottle, but it certainly plays as a fair option. If you’re interested in Smoke Wagon, or in trying some new bourbon, give it a shot. It likely won’t knock your socks off, but won’t disappoint either.
My favorite thing about a solid $30 bottle is the range they have. It’s good enough to drink neat or on the rocks, and there’s nothing to feel bad about if you mix it in a cocktail.
Smoke Wagon Bourbon Selection
We started with the base whiskey for our review, but we intend to do more. There are three other options in their lineup, so we figured we would touch on them briefly. we haven’t tried them yet, so we’ll refrain from any not factual or opinionated information. However, we will link to our reviews of them when we get around to trying them.
Smoke Wagon Small Batch Bourbon
Here we have the same high rye bourbon, but with the extra age. The small batch bourbon uses hand selected barrels, some aged for 4 years and some aged for 8 years, and blends them together. I expect this to be a bit more viscous than the original bourbon. It’s also a touch stronger at 100 proof.
This is the small batch bourbon uncut. ‘Cutting’ is the process where water is added to the whiskey after maturation to ‘cut’ the whiskey to the desired proof. The Uncut Unfiltered selection is bottled at 115+ proof.
Uncut the Younger
This is the cask strength of their straight bourbon. Aged for four years and barreled at 115+ proof.
Smoke Wagon Bourbon Summary
Smoke Wagon Straight Bourbon could improve with a little extra age, but it’s still a very solid bourbon. They do offer Smoke Wagon Small Batch which will have that extra time spent in the barrel, but it will be about double the price.
Smoke Wagon comes in at a very fair price. Most of my go-to, value bottles come in around the $30-40 mark, so this hits the nail on the head. It’s not my favorite bourbon in the world, but I have no problem recommending you to give it a try. Check out our review on George Remus Bourbon, another high rye bourbon from MGP.
lastly, I also appreciate and respect the little history that Smoke Wagon Bourbon has. Two dudes with an affinity for whiskey started a bar together and eventually decided to try their hand at making whiskey themselves. Don’t we all dream of quitting our jobs to make, drink, and sell whiskey? I sure do.