Review: Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey

DSR – NV – 001: Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Company/Distillery: Nevada H&C Distilling Co./Sourced from MGP

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Mash Bill: 60% Corn, 36% Rye, 4% Malted Barley

Age Statement: No Age Statement (NC ABC Listing states 4 years old)

Proof/ABV: 100 Proof/50% ABV

Color & Viscosity: Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a warm color that is light tawny in presentation. The whiskey has a thin appearance sitting in the glass and produces a sharp and slender viscous line. There are legs that develop quickly and slide effortlessly down to the bottom of the tasting vessel.

Purchase Price: $55.75 from NC ABC Stores – June 2021

Bottle Label Information:

Front Label

“Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey”

“Nevada H&C Distilling Co. | Las Vegas”


Rear Label

“Our high rye content bourbon is aged in the heart of a century old brick warehouse. Barrels are hand selected to create a perfect blend that is smooth, delicate and at the same time bold and intense. This unique complexity is achieved by combining multiple vintages of the same mashbill.”

“Produced, Bottled & Aged by Nevada H&C Distilling Company, Las Vegas, Nevada”

“Distilled in Indiana”

Distillery Background

Nevada H&C Distilling Company

Nevada H&C Distilling Co. was founded in 2012 by business partners, Jonathan Hensleigh and Aaron Chepenick. The adventure didn’t just begin at the distillery, however. Way back in 2004, Mr. Chepenick was running a bar he owned in Eagle Rock, California when a local screenwriter, Mr. Hensleigh (known for writing “Die Hard with a Vengance” and “Jumanji”, amongst others) strolled in for a drink one evening. The two quickly hit it off and in 2007, decided to open a second bar together, The Griffin, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Aaron Chepenick fancied vodka over other options like bourbon, whiskey, gin, or tequila. As his interest in vodka began to grow, and the pair moved deeper into their ownership of the bar, Mr. Chepenick began to explore the craft of distilling vodka. He would learn that his preferred brand, Russian Diamond, was filtered using silver – an idea that he would then research and consider pursuing further for his own distillation. Eventually the duo would make the decision to jump into distilling their own products, launching Nevada H&C Distilling Company in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Starting a distillery in Las Vegas would be no easy feat, as there were currently no other distilleries operating in the city. The Las Vegas City Council would have to create a license for the Nevada H&C Distilling Company. After lots of hard work, sweat, and long nights, the distillery was given the greenlight to proceed and would begin ordering its equipment, including a silver filtration system. Shortly thereafter, Nevada H&C Distilling Co. would reach out to Indiana distiller MGP, to source bourbon. Mr. Chepenick enjoyed Four Roses’ 35% high rye recipe and would decide to source MGP’s high rye recipe of 36% rye.

In 2016, after several legislative changes and additional hurdles and hoops to jump through, Nevada H&C Distilling Co. was finally able to begin blending the barrels of bourbon sourced from MGP. Chepenick would begin by taking 8-year old barrels of his high rye recipe and blending it with younger, 4-year old barrels. The rest, as they say, is history. Smoke Wagon has developed a bit of cult following throughout the United States and is a highly sought after bourbon whiskey on the market. Apparently Aaron Chepenick also is a hell of a follow on social media, so make sure to check him out.

In addition to the Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey of this review, Nevada H&C Distilling Co. also produces Smoke Wagon Straight Bourbon, Smoke Wagon Uncut and Unfiltered, Smoke Wagon Private Barrel and Silver Dollar American Vodka. For additional information regarding Nevada H&C Distilling Co., check out their website. You can also watch some of Mr. Chepenick’s videos on the Nevada H&C Distilling Co. YouTube Channel.

Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey

In order to produce Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Mr. Chepenick takes both 8-year old and 4-year old barrels of sourced MGP high rye mash bill (60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley) and artfully blends them together. The younger 4-year barrels bring the nice bold rye spice to the blend while the older 8-year barrels add the sweet notes and textures that only time in a #4 char new oak barrel can bring. The Small Batch offering comes bottled at a robust 100 proof. This highly awarded Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey has been awarded gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2016, 2017, and 2019.

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: July 10, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then with a few added drops of distilled water.


Christian: Giving Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey a nose in the bottle starts with loads of sweet brown sugar. A second pass of the bottle allows an aroma reminiscent of cola syrup (more RC than Coke or Pepsi) and rich tobacco to permeate the air. In my Glencairn glass, Smoke Wagon is surprisingly elegant. A sweetness of golden honey leads the way on the nose. A gentle swirl and deep inhale allows a gentle touch of vanilla, brown sugar, and pie crust to pleasantly move forward. Finally, a very subtle baking spice tickles my nose. Adding distilled water to this pour brings a buttery note into play. Brown sugar is still present, but the notes of caramel really begin to take precedence.

Mike: From the bottle, I get subtle notes of cured tobacco and brown sugar. There is a hint of cedar that pops out of the neck of the bottle. From the Glencarin glass, I get soft notes of vanilla, honey, and cinnamon. A gentle swirl of the whiskey produces an indulgent vestige of floral honeysuckle. As the bourbon comes to rest, a tinge of tangy acidic fruit is observed.


Christian: This Smoke Wagon Small Batch has a mouth feel that is very delicate and airy. There is a touch of creaminess to this pour that is very appealing. On the tip of my tongue, I get a quick hit of vanilla and honey sweetness again with just a tinge of pie crust. As the spirit drifts down my palate, a quick punch of aged leather and rich caramel become more apparent. It is very light, but, as the whiskey moves to the back of my mouth, I catch a faint earthiness, perhaps a taste of fresh peanuts. The distilled water allows the mouth feel of Smoke Wagon to retain the creamy and delicate consistency. The flavors remain subtle but sweet. Honey and fresh pastry are the most noticeable flavors. An accompanying stone fruit note is more front and center.

Mike: Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey is silky in the mouth. A touch of sweetness tickles the tip of the tongue as waves of aged leather and tobacco collide mid palate. On the back of the palate, semi-sweet peach cobbler with a dusting of sugar and cinnamon crust is revealed subtly, then gives way quickly to a peppery rye spice. 


Christian: The finish is where the high rye mash bill really announces itself, however, not in an overwhelming or obnoxious way. The finish is medium in length with very little hug on the back end. Warm brown sugar, toasted marshmallow, and oak are gently woven together with a balanced kick of red pepper flake from the rye. As the flavors dissipate and the whiskey long gone, I begin to notice a touch of bitterness accompanied by stone fruit — in this case it leans more towards peaches than apricots. The distilled water allows the spiciness of the finish to ramp up a bit. It is not as much red pepper flake now but leans more towards freshly ground cinnamon. I am beginning to detect a slight citrus note now.

Mike: This bourbon has a surprisingly medium finish. Earthy fruit lingers on the palate with a hot cinnamon spice fusing in the bottom of the throat. There is very little burn that extends down into the chest, which was unexpected given the proof. Overall, the finish of this pour is very balanced.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: If you follow any of the large bourbon groups on social media, then you are bound to have seen some of the craze currently surrounding Smoke Wagon. That craze made me approach this review cautiously, as I had a fear that it was another overhyped bottle that isn’t readily available here in North Carolina. Just being 100% honest, I really just wanted to buy one for the sexy bottle! Mike pushed to review it and I am glad we did. This Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a solid high rye blend by Nevada H&C Distilling. The 100 proof of this pour allows for an enjoyable drinking experience that was well worth the purchase. The delicate creaminess and flavor profiles are very reminiscent of another well known whiskey that we have previously reviewed and enjoyed – I think the higher proof point really gives this Smoke Wagon the edge. If I see it again, I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to add another bottle to my bar! Cheers!

Rating: 3.33 Rickhouses

Mike: This is a good quality bourbon from Nevada H&C Distilling Company. This doesn’t drink like a 100 proof bourbon and comes off a little unassuming. It has a few unique characteristics, but offers traditional bourbon flavors as well. In my opinion, this is a well-balanced and skillfully blended whiskey. Pick it up if you see it sitting on the shelf, but don’t go on a hunt for it or pay inflated prices.

Rating: 3.375 Rickhouses


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