Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Review

Nevada H&C Distilling Company, a company based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, launched the brand “Smoke Wagon” a little over a year ago by taking MGP high-rye bourbon and bottling it in four different products.  Through a little bit of internet sleuthing, I was able to determine that H&C bought a large amount of barrels at MGP several years ago and even had some distillate produced solely for the purpose of being reserved for their company to use at a later date.  They have chosen to have the barrels both racked and palletized and only really advertise when their product has been racked (meaning: aged on its side) when they deem appropriate.  None of the product is actually aged in Nevada, however, because the company declares that the desert climate is too dry for proper barrel aging (the wood would dry out and leak the contents).

Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon

Today, I am trying the entry-level bottle for Smoke Wagon, their “Small Batch,” which uses 4 to 5 year old MGP bourbon and blends them together before proofing it down to 100 proof.  Distributed to only a handful of markets, it’s not the easiest to find, but it’s also not that hard either because many of these markets are states that ship widely throughout the US.  With a great styled bottle (dark, opaque glass and a slender profile much like a wine bottle), does the juice inside live up to its good looks?  Let’s take a look.  This was sampled neat and in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose immediately hits you with a heavy rye spice aroma.  There’s cinnamon and toasted brown sugar that is evident in so many MGP products and must be a byproduct of aging the German-sourced rye that they use.  There’s a lovely sweetness that’s akin to raisins soaked in brandy.  Then there’s pine needles and a very sweet and tangy nose much like apple cider.

Palate: There’s a fairly bold, spicy kick for just being 100 proof, much like Red Hot candies.  It’s easily offset with some nice sweet traits like molasses cookies and baked apples.  The oak is light on this, which probably denotes the young age.  However, this does not have too many young traits, which surprises me.

Finish: The “Pine Needles” theme continues onto the plate with other high-rye traits like allspice, clove and citrus (lemon) zest.  The tannins start to show their face a bit more with pipe tobacco and some oak.  But a well-integrated molasses sweetness keeps everything in check and really brings together the whole package.

Score: 7.3/10

Smoke Wagon Small Batch 3

Sweet, delicious and frankly very well done for just being 100 proof.  I think the most unique thing about all bottles in the Smoke Wagon lineup is that there does not appear to be a bottle that fails to deliver or even a bottle that is just mediocre.  All have risen well above my expectations.  The Small Batch’s value proposition gets a bit hazy when you look at the almost $50 pricetag.  There are many, many other 100 proof bottles out there for just half of this price and even more age that could match it.  However, in terms of MGP juice, this starts to look like its priced about right.  Tumblin’ Dice rolled out with a 3 year old high-rye bourbon for around $40 and MGP’s own Remus Repeal Reserve (Batch 2, 100 proof) is around $80-90 but is twice the age.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I would probably suggest spending the extra $10 and grabbing a Smoke Wagon Uncut and Unfiltered that gives you a bit more age and a lot more proof and experiencing blending at its finest.  But if you’re in a pinch or really don’t want to up your proof game just yet, Smoke Wagon Small Batch is a beautiful entry point into this company’s impressive portfolio of products.

Smoke Wagon Small Batch 2

–> Buy Smoke Wagon Small Batch Bourbon

 

Rating 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)