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Smoke Wagon Desert Jewel Bourbon Review

Smoke Wagon Desert Jewel Bourbon Review

In the hierarchy of Smoke Wagon bourbons, Desert Jewel sets above the Small Batch bottling and the Uncut and Unfiltered bottling but below the Single Barrel 10 and 12 year bottles. 

Desert Jewel is made up from a large assortment of 10 year old MGP barrels that get batched together and then proofed down to 104 proof. 

Initially, there was some discussion as to whether or not any of these were single barrels, but it appears that Desert Jewel comes out in batches. 

These batches aren’t identifiable by any numbering and the proof and age have all remained the same, but as of January 2020, one of the owners claimed on an Instagram post to have bottled the last Desert Jewel bottle because the barrels had ran out. 

He is also contemplating what to do with the label from here on out, maybe using it for special releases in the future.

Desert Jewel bottles typically run $20 more than the Uncut and Unfiltered bottles, making them around $80, which puts them in the realm of some other really good bourbons that are mostly bottled at cask strength. 

So can Desert Jewel’s lower proof still compete at that high level?  Let’s take a look.  I sampled this neat and in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes


Nose: Right off the nose, I get a handful of sweet pecan pralines and sweet buttercream.  There are lots of fruit notes like figs, dried apple, raisins and dates, all very deep and well rounded. 

I also get a good amount of tannins in there, but they’re all much softer than regular cask strength MGP normally is; there’s fragrant wood, saddle leather and oddly enough, sagebrush bush (having lived in the Southwest for 5 years, I recall this vividly)

Palate: A delicious, thick Grade B maple syrup, with toasted nuts, cinnamon, toasted orange peel and vanilla cupcakes.  There’s also some slightly spice chili powder that helps the even out the sweetness.

Finish: Some sweet rye notes linger around longer while a thick, honey-like coating stays coats the tongue for a while. There’s sweet mint, juicy plums and some baked apples.  As the dram goes on, more baking spices start to pop up.

Score: 8.3/10


Smoke Wagon Desert Jewel simply blew me out of the water.  It was everything that I wanted and more.  The interesting thing about it was that somehow, it did remind me of the desert with that bit of sagebrush in the nose

Final Thoughts

This dram was just amazing with how complex and deep it was.  I’m amazed that by taking it down to 104 proof, just how much better it seems for it. 

Could this be Smoke Wagon‘s best bottle out of the lineup?  My answer is yes.  These barrels are really special and I’m glad I was able to pick up a bottle.

Ratings Breakdown

1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)

2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it

3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)

4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)

5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)

6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)

7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)

8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)

9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)

10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)

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