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Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. In the case of Ole Smoky Distillery in Tennessee, there’s also some statement-making whiskey.
Headquartered in a region better known for its moonshine than its aged grain-based counterparts, this Gatlinburg operation bills itself as one of the fastest-growing spirits companies in the United States. Honoring founder Joe Baker’s great-grandfather, the new James Ownby Reserve Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey release has family expectations to live up to. Ownby had a storied military career before he and his family became some of the first settlers to tame the eastern Tennessee territory near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“His most notable service came as a member of the renowned Overmountain Men regiment under the command of Colonel John Sevier in the Battle of Kings Mountain–the battle Thomas Jefferson deemed ‘The turn of the tide of success,’ in the Revolutionary War,” Baker says.
Checking in at 94 proof and filtered through sugar maple charcoal before aging in oak barrels, this small-batch bourbon represents its namesake well. The first sip comes across bold and brash, not overly sweet, with earthy notes of spice and tobacco. The finish leaves a lingering sting on the lips. With a manly reputation like James Ownby’s at stake, that’s how you want it. Don’t go messing around with mixers here. Drink it neat or not at all. Maybe just a splash of water or a single ice cube to sand out the rough edges, but that’s it.
Ole Smoky is only releasing around 200 barrels of this stuff at a suggested retail price of $40 per handsomely packaged 750 ml bottle. If you want to get your hands on some, don’t wait too long.