Review: ONW Straight Bourbon Whiskey

DSR-NC-010: ONW Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Company/Distillery: The Old Nick Williams Company, Inc.

Location: Lewisville, NC

Mash Bill: 60% Corn, 35% Wheat, and 5% Barley

Age Statement: Minimum 2 Years

Proof/ABV: 92 Proof/46% ABV

Color & Viscosity: Light chestnut in color. Legs are quick to develop and rapidly slide down the belly of the tasting vessel. Medium viscosity overall and a nice oily viscous line fuses to the neck of the glass.

Purchase Price: $36.95 from the NC ABC Store; 750 ml

Bottle Label Information:

Neck Label

“ONW Straight Bourbon Whiskey”

“Bottle No. 1405 | Batch No. 1”

“Established 1768”

Front Label

“ONW Straight Bourbon Whiskey”

“America’s Most Famous Forgotten Distillery”

“Handcrafted in small batches”

“200 Yr Old Family Recipe”

“ONW Bourbon is made in copper and stainless stills, using the formula that our ancestor, Col. Joseph Williams, the Revolutionary War Hero, used in his establishment almost 250 years ago. This original establishment had a reputation unparalleled in the nation for age, quality, and flavor which was enjoyed by presidents, congressmen, and distinguished gentlemen alike.”

“Distilled and Bottled by The Old Nick Williams Company, Inc., Lewisville, NC”

“Aged minimum 2 years”


Distillery Background

Old Nick Williams Company Farm & Distillery traces its distilling heritage back 250 years, before the Revolutionary War, in 1768. It was during this period, that The Williams Distillery was established by Joseph Williams in what was then known as Rowan County, North Carolina. The distillery has not changed locations but is now located in the Piedmont Triad, Forsyth County, in the town of Lewisville.

The distillery was operated by multiple generations in the family up until Prohibition forced them to close their doors. Below are the highlights of their history before Prohibition:

  • Joseph Williams: Established and ran The Williams Distillery from 1768 until approximately 1827.
  • Nicholas Lanier Williams and his son Joseph Williams: Operated the Joseph Williams Distillery from 1827 until about 1887 and introduced the “Old Nick” whiskey brand.
  • Nicholas Glen Williams: Took over the distillery from 1887 until 1913. During his time, he renamed the distillery “Old Nick Distillery” and sourced whiskey from other local distilleries. He took his whiskey to the 1893 World’s Fair and the 1900 Paris Exposition. Upon his death, his widow, Mary, managed the remaining supply of whiskey until the enactment of Prohibition shut them down in 1920.
  • Van and John Williams with their sons, Zeb and Matt: Decided to relaunch the Old Nick Williams Distillery in 2014. In October 2015, they celebrated their first bottling since Prohibition.

Other Old Nick Williams Company Farm & Distillery Product Offerings:

  1. Carolina Whiskey
  2. Coattail Cinnamon Whiskey
  3. Jamerican Rum
  4. ONW Vodka

Old Nick Williams released their ONW Straight Bourbon Whiskey, as reviewed below, in June of 2020. For more information visit their website: Old Nick Williams Whiskey

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: January 6, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass


Christian: Before pouring this bourbon into my glass, I take a nose from the bottle. Quickly I am greeted with sweet aroma of dark mixed berries and tobacco. I give my glass a generous swirl and raise it to my nose. Baking spices, mostly clove and a touch of cinnamon, rush from the glass to my nose. As I nose deeper, the flavors of honey, vanilla bean, and brown sugar really begin to stand out. Adding a few drops of distilled water allows the brown sugar and oak to step forward in this pour.

Mike: Upon first my smell, I immediately detect notes of brown sugar. Subtle vanilla aromas transition to fresh cooked oatmeal. As I nose in deeper, I experience a medium ethanol burn in my nostrils. A gentle swirl releases fragrances of tart apples and golden raisins.


Christian: ONW Straight Bourbon has a thin and airy mouthfeel. This pour is very delicate on the palate. Hints of caramel syrup, oak, and cereal grains provide the palate with a gentle kiss. As I take a second sip, a slight tartness of green apples, accompanied with honey graham crackers, become apparent. It is hard imaging the mouthfeel lightening up much, but it does with the addition of water. Graham cracker notes of honey and vanilla really pick up strength with a little more bitterness from the oak.

Mike: Initially, I experience a thin and dry mouthfeel. As I continue to sip this offering, a docile oakiness, revealed as curing tobacco and leather, surmount the tongue mid-palate. Second passing reveals dry stone-ground yellow grits. I begin to notice a muffled citrus-like tang on the back end as it yields to a ground cinnamon spice.


Christian: This whiskey has a medium finish. A nice deep warming sensation comes on late but is felt deep down in my chest. It is honestly a little unexpected, given the delicateness in the nose and the mouth. A nice punch of cinnamon spice blends with a hint of brown sugar and apples on the finish. The distilled water really brings out the cinnamon and apples in the finish. A slight sweetness is present, but not as much as apple pie filling. The finish becomes rather dry with water addition.

Mike: This whiskey has a short to medium finish. The leather notes resurface in the mouth as a gentle burn in the chest matures then redevelops in the lower throat.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: I continue to enjoy the uniqueness of the flavor profile found in Old Nick Williams products. This Straight Bourbon Whiskey is no different. One characteristic that I find noticeably different from our first review of their 18 month old whiskey is that the Straight Bourbon seems to be more mellowed, with the additional six months in the barrel. In the finish, this whiskey still announces that it is relatively young however, it is starting to mature nicely in the nose and palate. I think this whiskey could stand a little more time in the barrel – with the flavors beginning to develop but presenting a bit muted still. Perhaps offering this at a slightly higher proof could provide the punch needed to really make this whiskey pop. If you have not tried it yet, I recommend grabbing a bottle and giving it a shot.

Rating: 2.75 Rickhouses

Mike: Adding a few drops of water opens up the brown sugar and oatmeal aromas in the nose.  Very pleasant and reminds me of a hot bowl of oatmeal with a spoonful of brown sugar and a slowly melting pat of butter on top. The mouth becomes a tad bitter at first. Leather and tobacco are noticed but, I begin to pick up the addition of brown sugar and less cinnamon. The overall finish is softer, but all the tasting notes are present.

This offering from Old Nick Williams is aged approximately 6 months longer than its predecessor that we reviewed to kick off our Rickhouse Ramblings adventure last year. This has now become the standard age of their products. I feel I’ve grown as a reviewer, as has my palate, since then. This is a conventional offering from Old Nick’s. It will not astonish the average consumer and it won’t offend an experienced drinker. I will stand by my initial review from last year. I like what ONW is doing and I like their mash bill, but I absolutely want to try this in the 4 to 6 year range at or above the century proof mark.

Keep up the good work Zeb and Matt!

Rating: 3.0 Rickhouses


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