Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin
The attention given to Smoke Wagon surprised many bourbon enthusiasts since it is not from the top distilleries in the industry. However, Smoke Wagon makers know exactly how to turn MGP spirits into delectable whiskey. Are these spirits worthy of the fuss causing their entry-level bottle to have a high cost?
Here’s an in-depth review of the Smoke Wagon Bourbon – price, barrel, history, and everything interesting about it.
What’s Smoke Wagon Bourbon?
Smoke Wagon Bourbons are products of Nevada H&C Distilling Company, a Las Vegas-based distillery. It is widely known for its extravagant high-rye taste that is well mixed with fruit notes and smokiness.
They have Smoke Wagon Straight Bourbon, Smoke Wagon Small Batch, and the Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered variants. Smoke Wagon Private Barrel is also sold apart from the individually bottled whiskeys.
History & Origin
The history of Smoke Wagon started on a fated evening in 2004 at The Chalet, a bar in Eagle Rock, California. The bar’s owner is Aaron Chepenek, who interacted with a customer who later on became his partner with another bar they established in Nevada.
They purchased all the bourbons from MGP of Indiana, which was their plan when they started planning on having their product because of the flavors. Chepenik mainly does the review, testing, and creation of the variants. From those barrel contents, they began creating savory straight bourbon whiskeys.
How It’s Made
The straight bourbon is a blend of younger straight bourbon stocks and older spirits stored in oak barrels. Since rye ages faster than other grains, they find this method very useful to produce the flavor they want.
They pick a barrel ranging from 4 to 8 years and pair it with a vintage barrel, constantly trying out the flavors before placing it in a bottle.
Each brand’s barrel uses the mash bill blend, 60% corn, 36% rye, and 14% malted barley. The brand is known for the consistency of the flavors of its high-rye bourbon.
The bottle is highly coveted, considering how fast it disappears from stores. The popularity of these bottles has greatly increased from what they had in the past year.
The owners of Smoke Wagon are Jonathan Hensleigh, a Hollywood screenwriter, and Aaron Chepenek, a bar owner and bartender. The two met at Chepenek’s bar in California, and they immediately had a great connection.
They shared varied interests, ranging from business to liquors. They first became business partners with a new bar they co-owned in Nevada before venturing into spirits production.
All Smoke Wagon’s bottles have detailed vinyl labels on the front and back. The two 1873 Colt  single-action Army revolvers crossed are in the middle of the label. Below the guns is the brand’s slogan, Bibamus Moriendum Est, which translates to “drink, for we must die.”
There are slight differences between the entry-level bottles from the flagship bottles. However, these are merely the setup where the logos became inset in the bottle and changed the colors. Also, the Smoke Wagon Straight Bourbon bottle has a clear glass where you can see the liquid inside.
Smoke Wagon Straight Bourbon is the youngest and has a solid rye taste, but it has the pleasant sweetness of vanilla that evens the taste with just the right amount of oak and spice. It has a little bit of heat but no harshness at all.
The Small Batch palate tasted spicy but is toned down with the caramel sweetness. The tongue will also enjoy corn and fruit notes, particularly cantaloupe. This variant also features the solid smoky oak notes found on all variants.
The Uncut Unfiltered’s palate tasted more creamy and fruity compared to the other variants. You will savor plum fruit and dark fruits blended with caramel and rye spice. The palate will also enjoy sweet cinnamon, sugar, and oak notes.
Straight bourbon has the classic smell of vanilla and cinnamon but with clear visibility of rye spice. It has a very pleasant scent.
Small Batch brings a fruity smell blended with the scent of a charred alligator barrel to the nose. The smell has that nice sweetness where dried fruits and smoky oak with just a tad of rye spice.
Uncut Unfiltered variant brings more complexity, starting with the nose. It has an earthy scent with vanilla in the background.
The straight bourbon has a clear caramel color. It has just the right viscosity for a base-level bourbon. The Small Batch has an amber shade. A lighter color compared to Uncut Unfiltered.
Straight bourbon has a little thin and short finish but a nice peppery spice. Rye notes are still evident with its finish.
Small Batch features a medium-long finish with a bit of heat but is not unpleasant. The warm notes are from rye spice, making it very enjoyable to sip.
Uncut Unfiltered has a long spicy finish with notes of black tea and rye.
How Smoke Wagon Bourbon Gained Popularity
The popularity of Smoke Wagon started with banter on social media, particularly Facebook. A group named The Bourbon Enthusiast, an online whiskey club, was having a fuss with a San Diego-area liquor store owner who goes by the name “Crazy Naz.
This store owner allegedly filched all the bottles in California. The whiskey club made their claims, which got everyone asking what this brand has? And the rest is history.
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How To Drink Smoke Wagon Bourbon
The Small Batch is the best fit for an on-the-rocks drink. The sweetness of the fruit, cinnamon, and spice give it the perfect savor. Simply place a couple of ice cubes and pour a shot or a double to create a delicious straight bourbon on the rocks.
A pour from an Uncut Unfiltered bottle is best enjoyed neat. This variant has the fullest flavors with high alcohol content. The fruit and vanilla notes are more profound in this aged variant.
Gently swirl it around your Glencairn glass to let the aroma explode. Inhale and take in the wonderful smell before taking a sip. Play with it within your mouth and discover its complex flavors.
You can choose to use any of the Smoke Wagon variants you prefer since all of these are great in a cocktail. However, the fresh spicy savor from a young barrel of straight bourbon will twist the Old Fashioned.
Simply pour a double shot in an old-fashioned glass with ice, add a dash of bitters and a cube of sugar, and then muddle. Once dissolved, add fruit cuts, and serve.
You only need an ounce and a half of any variants you like. Pour it into a highball glass. Add in an ounce of lime juice, a cup of ginger beer, and then your mint sprig garnish.
Common Smoke Wagon Bourbon Prices
|Type||Size||Alcohol By Volume||Average Price|
|Smoke Wagon Small Batch Bourbon||750 ml||50%||Around $54|
|Smoke Wagon Uncut & Unfiltered Straight Bourbon Whiskey||750 ml||57.45%||Around $82|
|Smoke Wagon Uncut The Younger Straight Bourbon||750 ml||58%||Around $79.99|
|Smoke Wagon Private Barrel||750 ml||56.4%||Around $104.00|
Compared to Other Bourbons
Evan Williams is a bottle from Heaven Hill Distillery. This product has been around since 1783. The experience allowed them to make one of the best-tasting spirits in the market.
It has rich vanilla and caramel aromas that reaches the palate. Another reason it is a popular choice is that it is priced cheaply and even more affordable than Smoke Wagon. Every 750 ml bottle is priced at roughly $14.
Legent bourbon has a very pronounced grain aroma. You can also see its viscosity and richness through the clear glass bottle. It has vanilla and fruit notes that are well-balanced with oak and leather.
It is bottled at 114 proof and is priced lower than Smoke Wagon. Each 750 ml bottle is around $42.
Wild Turkey bottle is another small-batch whiskey many drinkers prefer. The variant from their warehouse G is aged eight years and has one of the most balanced flavors.
Its sweet flavors of caramel, honey, and vanilla combine perfectly with citrus and oak tannins . This brand sells bottles at the same cost as Smoke Wagon Small Batch. Every 750ml bottle is sold for roughly $63.
What states are Smoke Wagon Bourbon available?
Smoke Wagon Bourbon is available in most states in the US. You can buy this label in North Carolina, Oregon, Idaho, New Hampshire, Virginia, California, Wyoming, New York, New Jersey, and North Dakota.
Is Smoke Wagon Bourbon hard to find?
Yes, Smoke Wagon Bourbon is hard to find. While it is understandable that flagship bottles are sometimes tricky to locate, Smoke Wagon’s entry-level bottles are also difficult to find. This label has a huge following worldwide, which is why it easily disappears from the liquor store.
Is Smoke Wagon Bourbon smoky?
Yes, Smoke Wagon Bourbon is smoky, but not in an offensive way. These variants have a perfectly balanced palate and aroma. You will enjoy the flavors the moment it touches your tongue.
Smoke Wagon’s bottled spirits are undoubtedly special. The controversy over the internet proved the value of what is inside their barrels. The consistency and complexity of flavors they are loading on each bourbon justify their cost.
Each barrel stored at the warehouse of Smoke Wagon is enough to keep this brand at the top for a couple more years. Chepenik and Heinsleigh is the best example of people with dedication. They proved that even small-time dreamers could make it big if they knew their game.