Spirit: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Nevada H&C Distilling, Co.
Aged: NAS (at least 4 years)
About Nevada H&C Distilling:
In August of 2004, Jonathan and Aaron met at a bar in a twist of fate. Upon meeting, the pair began talking about what they did and didn’t like about the bourbons they were trying.
A lightbulb blinked on and they decided to open up shop in Las Vegas. Why? Because… well, because they both liked Las Vegas. Getting where they are today was no small task, though. The city had to create a license for them since there were no other distilleries at the time. On top of the creation of non-existent permitting, they dealt with a whole host of issues such as finding the equipment needed to begin working.
Now, they produce a critically acclaimed, widely-known, and highly sought-after whiskey line called Smoke Wagon. They make it alongside their equally beloved Silver Dollar vodka.
About Smoke Wagon Small Batch:
Smoke Wagon Small Batch is aged in a century-old brick warehouse and barrels are hand-selected for each small batch to ensure flavor and consistency.
Jonathan and Aaron found that younger vintages had a strong rye spice flavor, but the body was too thin. These hadn’t fully matured to achieve the deep sweet, oaky flavors they wanted. The older vintages were smoother, sweeter, and full-bodied, allowing the corn to mellow and mature. So, while either didn’t fully complete the flavor profile they were looking for, they found that a blend of the two rounded out the tasting experience.
So, in 2016, the first Smoke Wagon Small Batch was released. It blends the punchy rye and fruit congeners of the younger vintage with the full-bodied mouthfeel and mellow sweeter flavors of the older vintage.
Heat vs Proof
Notes & Review
Nose: Clean, medium nose. Spiced oak and toasted rye on the nose are the central scents. However, it is surrounded by hints of deep baked caramel, burnt toffee, kettle corn, stonefruit, spice, and apricot.
Palate: Off-dry sweetness, with a little rough but mouthfilling texture, medium flavor.
An earthy sweetness, like baked molasses on the front with a black pepper undertone. It opens up into spicy rye with strong dry-roasted oak and baking spice notes.
Finish: Medium length and simple finish consisting of charred oak, baking spice, and dried leather.
Review: Smoke Wagon has a very positive reputation in the whiskey community. People seek out their uncut & unfiltered expression like hounds hot on a trail. However, sometimes that’s just hype. However, the small batch is one that has gone somewhat under people’s radar, which is a shame because it’s actually quite a solid pour.
It’s definitely drier and more earthy than some of the pours I gravitate towards, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It owns what it is, and I definitely respect that. Their advertising and descriptions hold out there that they were trying to create a high-rye bourbon that fully embraced a rye-forward profile. And, that’s something it definitely succeeds in.
There’s a multi-layered approach to the rye from the blending of various vintages, even though it’s a bourbon. There’s a brighter, sweet rye note that is a gentle support to a more bold and spicy “big rye” profile. This layered approach is sure to delight rye fans while still having notes that bourbon enthusiasts will enjoy.
It’s definitely not as smooth as some other options at 100 proof but is by no means “too hot” to enjoy. I think that heat is somewhat perceived due to the spicy and bold rye character rather than an overtly “high proof” burn. But, I do wish that edge was just slightly more mellowed.
However, it’s overall a solid pour. It’s definitely one for you if you’re a fan of big rye flavors!
Greg Sinadinos started his spirits journey writing a whiskey periodical for Fine Tobacco NYC Magazine. He began answering review requests under a social media page he named “Whiskey Culture,” which quickly merged with Greg’s passion for connecting with others and his interest in history.
Today, Greg travels the country not just looking for great whiskey, but also exploring the history and individuals that the whiskey community is founded upon. He has authored “Whiskey History From Around The World” and is the host of “The Rickhouse” web series.