Review: Zeb’s American Straight Rye Whiskey

DSR-NC-024: Zeb’s American Straight Rye Whiskey

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

Location: Lewisville, NC

Mash Bill: Undisclosed – At Least 51% Rye

Age Statement: Minimum 2 Years

Proof/ABV: 92 Proof/46% ABV

Color & Viscosity: From the bottle, Zeb’s American Straight Rye Whiskey presents auburn in color. In the tasting vessel, the whiskey takes on a more russet color. Tilting the glass to the side, a medium viscous line presents rather quickly. The viscous lip becomes thicker, then large droplets form and sluggishly drift down the glass.

Purchase Price: $46.15 from the NC ABC Store; 750 ml Bottle

Bottle Label Information:

Front Label


“American Straight Rye Whiskey”

“Distilled and Aged in the ONW Family Tradition”

Side Label

“Just like a pour of Zeb’s American Straight Rye Whiskey, whitewater brings folks together from all walks of life. The lifelong friendships and the camaraderie built over the years have been a very special part of my life.”

“For that reason, I dedicate Zeb’s American Straight Rye Whiskey to my fellow boaters and whitewater family across the globe. To Big, Clean lines my friends!”

“Distilled in Lawrenceburg, IN; Bottled by the Old Nick Williams CO., Lewisville, NC”

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 it’s 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. ONW Carolina Whiskey
  2. ONW Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  3. Coattail Cinnamon Whiskey
  4. Jamerican White Rum
  5. Jamerican Overproof Rum
  6. Jamerican Aged Rum
  7. ONW Vodka
  8. Hempahol – Vodka Infused through Hemp Seeds
  9. Marci’s Tears – Vodka Infused with Ghost Peppers

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

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: July 5, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then with a couple drops of distilled water.


Christian: From the bottle, Zeb’s American Straight Rye Whiskey offers up a subtle light nose that gently emits a sweetness of toasted brown sugar and delicate oak barrel char. In my Glencairn glass, I am welcomed by a warm sweetness of fresh milled corn and vanilla custard – similar to a homemade corn pudding in the oven. Freshly pressed pie crust is also present yet very unassuming. A quick swirl of the glass allows for a small amount of freshly made unsweetened applesauce to join the mix. Adding distilled water into the mix jacks the sweetness level up a notch. Toasted pie crumble, pie crust, and warm brown sugar are all present.

Mike: Nosing this rye whiskey from the bottle, soft notes of light brown sugar and slightly baked pastry crusts are detected. There is a pinch of fruity sweetness present, but the variety is indistinguishable. 

From the Glencairn glass, a quick inhale reveals a Juicy Fruit gum sweetness that recedes to a berry wine-must aroma. Subtle hints of freshly sliced golden delicious apples materialize with a swirl of the whiskey. 


Christian: Zeb’s American Straight Rye Whiskey has a fantastic creamy mouth feel that is both velvety and full bodied. Freshly sliced granny smith apples, baking spices, oiled saddle leather, and oak barrel char grow on the palate. A second pass allows a tinge of citrus zest and a punch of rye spice to become apparent. I’m picking up a lot of traditional rye whiskey qualities on the palate here. Man, the distilled water really ramps up the apple pie characteristics of this rye whiskey. Crisp apples, freshly ground cinnamon, and spicy clove provide a nice warmth and robust flavor profile to the palate.

Mike: My First sip of Zeb’s American Straight Rye Whiskey is bright and crisp on the palate. A soft creaminess moves across mid-palate as suggestions of lightly sweetened applesauce develop. This rye coats the tongue with a velvety softness then transitions to the warmth of black pepper and rye spice which matures perfectly on the back end. 


Christian: The finish on this straight rye whiskey is much more pronounced and punchy than expected. Medium in length with a nice hug that builds in the chest. Toasted brown sugar, charred oak barrel, and a nice medley of cinnamon and clove baking spices really round out this pour nicely. Long after I have enjoyed this spirit, hints of roasted corn are joined with just a wisp of stone fruit which lingers a while on the palate. The water really tones down the finish which I was finding enjoyable as it was. Oiled leather, barrel char, and black pepper really hold up to the addition of the water.

Mike: For a 90 proof whiskey, Zeb’s Rye Whiskey punches higher than its stated proof. Smooth as it passes the back of the throat, the zestiness of rye arrives much later in the lower throat and mid-chest region.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: Old Nick Williams Distillery has blended a nice, well-rounded straight rye whiskey by adding Zeb’s American Straight Rye Whiskey to their portfolio. This offering provides traditional rye flavors and baking spices while remaining incredibly approachable and tasty. I absolutely love the creamy texture experienced when sipping this. At the risk of alienating a huge fan base, this pour reminds me of the creaminess of Wild Turkey’s Longbranch, a pour I personally enjoy, but with more nuanced depths of flavor. If you are looking for a nice sippin’ rye that is approachable with nice flavors, then give this offering from Old Nick Williams Distillery a try!

Rating: 3.25 Rickhouses

Mike: Kudos to Old Nick Williams Distillery on this rye whiskey. It has very well-balanced flavors, although not excessively complex overall. This is an excellent sipper in the summer and offers a welcoming crispness in its profile. Priced at about $47 for 750 ml, this rye is approachable in price and flavor. If you’re local to North Carolina, definitely consider picking this one up from your local ABC store. 

Rating: 3.5 Rickhouses


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