Outsider’s Jay Cutler and Brandon Chesbro enjoyed drinking and rating Four Roses Bourbon last Monday so much so that they decided to do it again, this time with three bottles of Smoke Wagon Bourbon. The mission, like last time, was simple: to find out once and for all if the tiers of bourbon offered by one single company really taste all that different.
Last week, Jay and Brandon voted unanimously in favor of the Four Roses Single Barrel — the most expensive offering they tasted — for both taste and smoothness. Will Smoke Wagon’s highest tier reign supreme as well, or can Outsiders save a few bucks and opt for the cheaper stuff without sacrificing the experience? Pour yourself a nip and let’s dive in.
Brandon set the stage by explaining the origins of Smoke Wagon, a distillery that operates out of Nevada but imports its product from Indiana.
“Smoke Wagon is a MGP bourbon,” he explained. “MGP is a company out of Indiana that basically mass produces whiskey. Basically, whenever you see like a craft bourbon from a smaller company, they’re getting their bourbon from MGP. They’re buying [large quantities] and mixing it together to make their own concoctions. There’s some really good bourbons out there that are MGP.
“Not everything perfect comes from Kentucky, and this is a very good example of that.”
Smoke Wagon Straight
- Nose: honey, toasted nuts and with some oak and heat
- Palate: creamy mouthfeel with initial rich sweet notes of honey and caramel on the tip of the tongue followed by nuts, oak and pepper spice
- Finish: creamy sweetness that coats, spice that lingers
- Proof: 92.5 proof, or 46.25% alcohol by volume
- MSRP: $29.95
“This stuff is awesome, makes a damn good Old Fashioned,” Brandon promised before taking a sip. “I love the smell, too. Caramel, but kind of hot. Cinnamon. And the master distiller said his inspiration was Four Roses Single Barrel.”
“For 92.5 (proof) it’s pretty smooth,” Jay agreed. “Not a long burn. I like that. It does remind me of a Four Roses, but with more caramel flavor.”
“It’s got that dang good heat,” Brandon noticed after pouring too much and having to shoot the rest down in one big gulp. The tasting was already off to a stellar start.
Smoke Wagon Small Batch
- Nose: balanced oak nose with hints of fruit and dried apricots
- Palate: sweet notes on the front of the tongue, white pepper on the middle and back of the tongue, hints of caramel, fruit flavor, rye spice
- Finish: smooth with no burn
- Proof: 100 proof, or 50% alcohol by volume
- MSRP: $44.95
“From what I’ve heard, the Small Batch is the outlier,” Brandon said as he poured the next round. “You can get good ones or bad ones.”
“These bourbon tastings before noon are just not a good idea,” Jay joked before his sip. Don’t worry, he would change his tune just moments later. “I think I’m in love. I really like that,” he said after trying the Small Batch.
“That’s the perfect amount of spice,” Brandon agreed. “It’s more spicy than sweet, whereas the Straight is more caramel flavored.”
“I feel like it has less burn [than the Straight],” Jay said. “It’s way more smooth. Caramel in there. Peppery. And a quick drop off. The first one was lingering a bit, but this one is gone.”
Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered
- Nose: caramel, rye, cinnamon, orange rind, ginger
- Palate: sweet, fruity, dark, leather, and rich oak with a buttery mouthfeel and hints of walnut
- Finish: rustic with leather, cigar, and dry oak as a focus
- Proof: 115 proof, or 57.50% alcohol by volume
- MSRP: $59.95
“I love this because I’m a high-proof guy,” Brandon said of the final offering, a specialty blend called Uncut Unfiltered. “The burn went up,” he said after his first sip.
“Not much, though,” Jay asserted. “It’s very buttery in your mouth. It’s very smooth. Like velvet in your mouth. The burn definitely lasts a little bit longer. And it hits you going down.”
“You can definitely feel it going down,” Brandon agreed. “To me, as opposed to last week with Four Roses, all three of these are winners. Just depends what you’re in the mood for. You can make a cocktail with the Straight. You can sip on the Uncut. And you can share the Small Batch with buddies.”
“Well I’m going to buy all of these, I’m a big fan,” Jay declared. “Smoke Wagon, pick your poison, they’re all good. Obviously priced differently, but good pick Brandon. And you can get all three for less than a tank of gas.”
“And you can’t drink gas, or not yet,” Brandon pointed out.
No doubt when that day comes, though, the Bourbon Boys will pour a glass of premium unleaded and share their thoughts on those flavors, as well. Cheers to another successful bourbon tasting. Until next time.