WHO IS SMOKE WAGON?
You could say that Smoke Wagon started back in 2012, the moment that Aaron Chepenik and Jonathan Hensleigh set foot on the old Seagrams plant and purchased all 10 barrels of 36% Rye that was available.
Midwest Grain Producers (MGP) acquired the famous Lawrenceburg Distillery in October 2011. The Distillery had been operating under the name Seagrams following Prohibition until 2000.
Fast forward to present day and Smoke Wagon is one of the most recognisable bottles of American Whiskey in the World, alongside famous expressions like 'Beam White Label' and 'Jack Daniel's Old No. 7'. How did these two guys managed such an astronomical feat in such a short time..? How is this possible when their yearly output is only a small percentage of what Beam and JD put out..?
1. Their products are far superior than most.
Delicious Bourbon and probably the most visual appealing Spirits bottle in the World today, both the Bourbon and the Vodka. Oh yes, they are actually a Distillery called NEVADA H & C DISTILLING COMPANY and distill their own Vodka. Also their Bourbon is not just sourced from MGP and bottled straight away, it actually spends some time aging under the Mojave Desert weather...
2. The modern wonder of the World called Social Media, combined with Aaron's positive mindset and hardworking approach to everything. The guy is a modern day superman, you will be hard pushed to find someone with a similar work ethic as Aaron's. Maybe it has something to do with his past work in the construction industry, driving trucks, commercial real estate or owning bars, maybe a combination of those and out of necessity. You see, Aaron is the only Distiller or Master Blender that has unloaded barrels with stitches on his body, that I know of.
He runs the very successful 'Smoke Wagon Whiskey' Social Media accounts where he uploads videos of his blending, batch releases and new State availability. He also has his personal Instagram account where you can find him enjoying things like for example, his passion for motorcycles and American cars, just like a normal human being.
The first few years was very a hard road for the guys, with a few major setbacks that would have disheartened anyone out of producing Spirits but Aaron and Jonathan kept chasing their dream and somehow these hurdles actually are the reasons Smoke Wagon are WHO and WHAT they are today.
There were two events in my opinion that stand out, which shaped Smoke Wagon's popularity.
1 ▪︎The State of Nevada changed their laws around one year after their MGP purchase. You could no longer use someone else's Whiskey and make your own also. Blessed is the day them two decided to keep their MGP juice!
2 ▪︎At the end of 2019 a bottle shop owner in San Marcos used a loophole to buy part of a Smoke Wagon 12 year old Barrel Pick by The Bourbon Enthusiast... this affected Aaron immensely and he posted a couple of videos on Social Media explaining what had happened and how it had negatively impacted him. Suddenly everyone and anyone was talking about what had happened to Smoke Wagon.
The massive support that Aaron received in the following months is probably the main reason he puts his heart and soul towards trying to get a Bottle of Smoke Wagon to you, the Bourbon drinker.
"When we went to MGP we already had the name and the bottle. When MGP executives saw it they were very impressed. Also at the same time the state changed their laws a local craft distiller had just completed his first year of aging and he lost 48% volume in the first making it obvious that aging from day one here in the low humidity desert wasn’t really an option on top of the issue we wouldn’t be able to import our 2200 barrels we had at MGP which included that first purchase and 2 years of contract distilling. Another main component that makes it unique is the blending and my knowledge of warehouse locations and floors and how each one will affect the finish. Small batch was born because the tanks we were going to dump the 5 year we initially bought were never approved by the fire dept. So now I had 8 year and the few month old barrels we bought in 2012 were 4 years old. The original plan was to blend the two to taste like the 5 year and I did it how the experts said and it was terrible. So I spent 3 days blending and come up with a flavor profile that both Jonathan and I loved. The consultants we hired said no don’t use that much 8 year, put that in an age statement bottle and make small batch young. With the state laws and the inability to age from day one here the writing was on the wall that contract distilling was our future. Not only did the blend make the flavor profile proprietary I liked it better than anything so I felt like we were truly bringing something new to the market. So we fired everyone and did what we wanted!"
In last couple of years Smoke Wagon has been successfully expanding into more and more States and it will be only a matter of time until they begin exporting, specially now that they have a bigger facility.
Jonathan and Aaron in 2021, surveying the works at the future premises
What exactly the future holds for Smoke Wagon, nobody can be certain of it... but whatever happens rest reassured that Aaron and Jonathan will continue to sell some of the best American Whiskey available for purchase.
"Affordable entry level Bourbon that everybody can enjoy"
Now, excuse me as my hunt begins for their newest expression: Smoke Wagon Rye Whiskey...
My name is Victor and I hope you enjoyed my first blog for The Bourbon Brothers. I am not associated with any liquor Brand and do not work in the liquor industry.
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