Nevada H&C Distilling Co. was founded in 2012 by Aaron Chepenik and Jonathan Hensleigh in Las Vega, Nevada. Sourced from MGP in Indiana, the company ages their whiskey in the Nevada desert and leans on bespoke blending to differentiate their whiskey from other MGP sourced whiskeys. The Small Batch and Uncut Unfiltered releases both come with a stamped wax seal of two crossed guns and the phrase, “Bibamus Moriendum EST” denoting, "drink, for we must die" or according to the company, “drink and enjoy today because we won't be around forever.”
Smoke Wagon Small Batch Bourbon is made by combining the company’s older age stock with younger barrels. Like the other two offerings, Smoke Wagon Small Batch Bourbon is non-chill filtered.
Creamy caramel, light vanilla, and oak are immediately noticeable. Light peppery scents slowly intertwine and highlight a dash of rye spice, and the slightest hint of ethanol tingles the nose. The sweet yet slightly spicy combination provides for a simple opening, yet one that can also be appreciated by whiskey lovers of all levels.
The sip opens with light creamy caramel and dry oak. These flavors quickly transition to a swirl of heavy rye spice, green peppercorn, aged oak, and vanilla. The lighter sweet notes help to tamper down the rampant spicy notes, resulting in a bold sip that toes the line of overdoing it yet doesn’t go so far as to ruin the sip.
Dry oak and leather are quickly overrun by a bright burst of rye spice. This spice lingers, adding a depth of heat to the finish throughout. Hints of sweet vanilla and caramel flash, but ultimately the finish transitions to a woody-spice combination that gently fades away. It’s an appropriate way to end the sip and holds true to the overall theme of sweet trying to balance out spice.
Smoke Wagon is like many non-distiller producers sourcing from MGP, they imparting their own touch on it to differentiate it from others. In the case of their Small Batch Bourbon, the company ages in the dry heat that the state of Nevada affords, and the end result is one that seems to allow the rye spice to pop a little bit more. So much so that the bourbon borders on being over-spiced. However, the company does meet their stated goals of using older barrels to help tame the spiciness of the younger ones. The end result is a bourbon that steps out of the pack by showing that sometimes you don’t need to carry an age statement or name brand recognition in order to stand out.
Bourbons labeled as Small Batch are not only plentiful in the market, but they’re usually reasonably priced. With value based pours such as Four Roses Small Batch, Elijah Criag Small Batch, and Knob Creek Small Batch readily available for under $40, the competition is fierce. That said, even though Smoke Wagon Small Batch may not carry the cache that these bigger brands do, it's able to stand on its own and compete directly with its competition. It’s asking price, while maybe a tad high, is fair for what it offers.
Smoke Wagon Small Batch Bourbon toes the line of being over spiced, but ends up delivering a sip that will please spice lovers.
Smoke Wagon Small Batch Bourbon is the middle child in the company’s current lineup. It affords less sweetness than its lower proof Straight Bourbon sibling, but doesn’t bring the brashness that its barrel proof Uncut Unfiltered brethren affords. Instead, it stakes its own identity to spice. The sip provides for an overall spicey experience that walks the line of being overdone, but not enough so that the end result still isn’t enjoyable.
Priced reasonably in line with other well known small batch bourbons, Smoke Wagon is able to deliver a pour that can compete and offers a subtle uniqueness that helps it stand up. For those that like a spicy bourbon, Smoke Wagon Small Batch is sure to please.