Sometimes the name truly does say it all. That is precisely the case with the subject of today’s review: Smokewagon Rare & Limited is, in fact, so limited that I’ll be referring to it in the past-tense for this review as the product is gone, baby, gone. This sold out in an instant thanks to the immense popularity–and indeed cult following–this brand has garnered over the course of 2020 and into this new year. For an in-depth look at Smokewagon Bourbon check out the video below where Jay and I invited Founder Aaron Chepenik onto Weekly Whiskey to discuss the brand and, of course, the whiskey.
Smokewagon Bourbon is a brand that has exploded in popularity for a number of reasons, but one of the most obvious being the quality of the product. Aaron Chepenik has owned and operated a number of successful bars in the Las Vegas area, and over the years he honed his palate toward fine whiskeys. Ultimately deciding to launch his own brand, and sourcing product from MGP, Aaron began creating blends that (little would he know at the time) would drive bourbon fans wild.
So what makes this product earn the title Rare & Limited? It’s rare simply due to the fact that it is eight year MGP bourbon; and limited due to the fact that the entire batch was from a mere eleven barrels. Eleven. Yep, that’s limited af!
Without pre-release pomp and circumstance to prime the market for this product it sort of snuck it’s way into the market without fanfare and was sold out before the wider bourbon universe had any idea where it was or how to find it. We were lucky enough to get our hands on it for review purposes, and if you checked out the video above (it’s long feel free to skip around) you heard our initial thoughts on it.
Speaking to the lack of pretense on this release, when Aaron was discussing Rare & Limited on Weekly Whiskey he had this to say:
It would be kind of cool if when it’s out we have some people trying it and so they can talk about it, and let everybody know if it’s any good.
Aaron Chepenik, Smokewagon Bourbon
So to recap: we’ve got a batch created from eleven barrels of eight year old MGP bourbon that was aged on the fifth floor of the warehouse. It’s coming in at 118.9 proof without chill filtration. Let’s dig in!
Nose – Big rich caramel backed up by an entourage of spice. The spice layer is coming through like fresh-baked spice cake that brings a warm vanilla tone along for the ride. A light butterscotch note comes in as well once this sits in the glass a moment. There’s a quality oak structure holding this all together and rounding out the nose.
Taste – An almost oily mouthfeel that coats the palate completely. Sweet caramel blending a bit with a Werther’s candy note starts the show–and a rich layer of spice comes right in on cue. A light hint of buttercream is hiding in there after a few swirls in the glass. The oak is here, but not in powerful way…just enough to support the rest of the cast of characters. Vanilla comes through really underlining the baking spice in a way that almost reminds me of a molasses cookie or a homemade ginger bread (actual gingerbread not cookies).
Finish – Quite simply, it’s long and strong. This doesn’t drink to it’s 118.9 proof, but the finish carries both flavor and ethanol tingle with it. The oak is evident here but not potent (if you’re oak-sensitive you won’t be turned off by this) as the caramel and sweet vanilla hang on for the longest part of the ride. The back palate spice is totally working with the sweeter notes to create a very balanced finish that just carries.
Bourbon Finder Grade: A-
This is a hell of a pour! This is nearly everything I imagine when I think of (or want to describe) “good bourbon”. The profile is classic in all the right ways. Smokewagon Rare & Limited totally checks the boxes for the bourbon lover.
The rich bouquet to the nose expands nicely in the glass. One area where a product can always earn (or lose) points on my grading is the mouthfeel–while it doesn’t need to have an exceptionally heavy feel or texture to it–the additional coating of Rare & Limited checks off the additional box elevating it into the “A” range.
I’m happy to have tried this one–and I’ll be keeping an ear to the ground for the second batch of this one. Thanks for checking this one out with me, I hope you have a chance to try it too!
TheBourbonFinder thanks Smokewagon Bourbon for graciously providing us a sample of their product. Being able to try new things in the whiskey space, without strings attached, is an opportunity we greatly appreciate. Per our review ethos, we provide objective reviews and commentary on media samples of spirits and products; remember, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!
Our grading system: As mentioned in our About Us page, we’re excited to share bourbon with our friends, family, and readers. There are enough critics, cynics, and curmudgeons in the whiskey world as it is, so our goal is to foster the bourbon community in a positive way by bringing fun and entertaining content whenever possible–as such–we decided that applying precise scores to whiskey was simply too serious for us (and didn’t accurately showcase variability in taste from day to day). We use a simple grade school system to apply a grade to the whiskeys we review because we feel it is indicative of the whiskey’s grade for us on that particular day. A grade of a “B” today may very well be a “B+” or even a “B-” on another day, so rather than focusing on a precise score today that may not stand the test of time, we are just sharing our overall grade of that pour for that one tasting. Pour a bit and enjoy, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!
I got into bourbon for the flavor and experiences associated with it. As I found more bourbon I enjoyed, the need to dive deeper into the history, brands, and technical side of things converted me into a total bourbon geek.