I recently received a phone call from my daughter as she was enjoying a long weekend in the Smoky Mountains. “Dad – we’re at a distillery and they have some bourbon here. Would you like me to grab some so you could try it?”. I’m always up for a new experience, and this one comes with an interesting story.
Moonshine and Bourbon
Ole Smoky has been in the spirits market for over a decade now. While moonshine has been part of the Appalachian heritage for over 200 years, it wasn’t until Tennessee law changed in 2009 to allow legal distillation of spirits. Ole Smoky produces more than two dozen varieties of moonshines. In 2016, Ole Smoky purchased the Davy Crocket Whiskey facility, brand, and barrels and added aged whiskey to its lineup.
Today, Ole Smoky offers a variety of whiskeys, all distilled in its Gatlinburg, Tennessee facility, including a traditional Straight Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey and Blended Tennessee Whiskey. More exotic flavors include Salty Caramel (I tried this, too – incredibly sweet – would be great in a cocktail), Mango Habanero, Cinnamon, Pecan, Maple, Root Beer, Tennessee Mud, and Cookies & Cream (wow!). The whiskeys are crafted from a century old recipe, barreled in white oak, and aged at least four years.
Each whiskey features locally grown grain, yeast, and water to produce a unique flavor profile. Until recently, the brand could only be found in local Tennessee markets; today, you’ll find it just about anywhere its moonshines are sold.
Ole Smoky is bottled at 80 proof and is labeled as Tennessee Straight Bourbon, indicating it is at least 2 years old. There is no age statement on the bottle.
Eye: Light straw-like caramel. I don’t see any legs in my Glencairn glass.
Nose: There is an initial dose of alcohol – which surprises me from this low-proof edition. I’m at a bit of a loss to fully describe the notes here. There are grassy-hay-like essences and subtle corn and fruit notes layered underneath.
Palate: Grassy and woodsy notes, followed late by vanilla and spice and light brown-sugar and earthy undertones. The mouthfeel feels thin and definitely feels like a young profile.
Finish: Medium-short finish with more corn and grass-like notes, followed by a light pepper spice.
Overall: I don’t recall what my daughter paid for this, though I’ve seen it locally in the low-$20s. Overall – ok, though uninspiring. At this price point, I could easily procure something a little more interesting, including Old Forester, some of the Jim Beam limited releases, or finds from Heaven Hill.