Thursday, August 24, 2023

Review: Smoke Wagon Bottled in Bond Straight Rye Whiskey

Color (5%): Light amber and hay hues. Very low thinning at the edges. 4/5

Nose (10%): There's a nice rye spice and a big vanilla sweetness. That corn comes through in this rye. There's a bit of oak and cinnamon. Some orange peel comes in after some time. Nice and candy-like. Compared to the last few smoke wagons I've tried, the alcohol burn is all tolerable. 8/10

Palate (20%): The corn sweetness pops straight in there, a nice soft caramel. After all, corn is basically half the mashbill. I've tried the Small Batch, the standard Straight Bourbon, and the Uncut The Younger; this is the first rye in my portfolio. It's okay for a bonded rye. That menthol note pops in after a few sips but is less intense than other recent samples. The botanical notes are there but are milder: mint, pine, and green tea. Spice and oak are present but not dominant, with some faint cinnamon and allspice. 17/20

Finish (10%): The finish is smooth. There's minimal alcohol burn for the proof. There's a nice cake frosting sweetness. Medium duration. A bit of cinnamon hangs around. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): I'd like more oak here. This one's a bit young. Also, it's 2% away from not being rye whiskey at all. This would be called the sweetest and easiest if this was in a flight of rye whiskeys. It could be a stepping stone for someone to go from bourbon into the world of rye, but there are better examples of a typical rye. It's fine. I'm sure people will like it, but it has only one aspect that will make it anyone's favorite. If offered, I'll happily drink it, but I would pick something else if I want a rye whiskey. 22/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The sweetness from that corn really comes through when chilled down. A bit more allspice comes in. The mint gets milder but lingers a bit longer on the finish. Nothing elevated, but only a little was lost. 21/25

Total Ranking: 79% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $44
Actual Price: $65

Conclusion: Why pick this mash bill? 51% to 49%. There are many ways to stack flavors and layer in complexity and depth. Aging in Nevada heat is a new and experimental science, but this great distillery needs to do something to push the boundaries or excel at a price point that makes you wish they had dialed this in more. This whiskey is fine, but for $65, $70, even $80 in some markets, no. Smoke Wagon dipped its toe in the rye market, but they were not swimming with the champs here. I hope that they dial in a quality product, but this mash bill will never be the favorite of a rye lover, and at this price point, it won't be someone's new exploration at the bar, which brings in a new regular consumer. If you are offered this, try it. I don't need to spend the total price for a bottle or a glass. My favorite ryes are the ones that have been around for nearly a century or more, like Sazerac, or the ones that follow those roots but add a fun twist, like the Dad's Hat Port Finish. For the money, get something famous for their rye. 

Fact Sheet:
51% Rye, 49% Corn, maybe 51% Rye, 45% Corn, 4% Barley. There is an issue with labeling specific batches.
Distillery Location: Las Vegas, Nevada H&C Distilling Co
Aged at least 4 years
ABV: 50%

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