There are more craft distilleries popping up around Austin, Texas than pimples on a teenager. Some of these are amazing and some are more about being a tourist trap than a proper distillery. Which one is Iron Wolf Ranch and Distillery?
The idea for the business started in 2013 with long-time industry professional Lester Singleton. By 2014, he had joined with a larger group of investors and spent the next couple years solidifying the branding and the experience.
Like some of the other distilleries that have cropped up just outside Austin, the folks at Iron Wolf wanted to create not only a spirit that they enjoyed drinking but also a distillery as a destination that people could come experience. After finding a suitable location in Spicewood, TX, they built a world class distillery and started making their first products.
Iron Wolf is a company that makes most of their money off their flavored whiskey offerings, specifically their Hotscotch, which infuses the heat of Texas peppers with some sweetness to produce a version of Fireball that I don’t hate. Their flavored whiskey offerings primarily use spirits that are manufactured elsewhere and trucked in (with Iron Wolf only flavoring and bottling the whiskey), although with a sprinkling of their locally produced whiskey included. Their bourbon, on the other hand, is 100% made at their distillery.
There’s not a whole lot of information available about this spirit, so I’ll try to reach out to the distillery and update the review once I know more. But this is marketed as a “high rye bourbon”, which means we know three things for sure:
- The grain bill contains at least 51% corn.
- There’s also some rye mixed in with that original grain bill.
- The refined spirit is matured in charred American oak barrels.
According to the distillery’s site, the whiskey is aged for a period of 3.5 years prior to bottling, a step that might make it eligible for the “straight bourbon” label as well. From there it is bottled and shipped.
Interesting to note: this spirit is being made available in stores for the first time this year. Previously, the whiskey was only available at their distillery but you can now find it in local central Texas liquor stores.
A lot of thought and effort went into designing this bottle. It’s brilliant.
First, the shape. The bottle is fairly traditionally shaped, with a slender semi-round base that tapers aggressively to a long neck with a bulge in the middle. The whole thing is topped with a plastic and cork stopper.
It sounds all very normal, but there’s a method to the madness.
The bottle itself looks round-ish, but the bottom of the bottle is squared off at just the right size and shape to make it fit neatly and snugly into a drink rail at a bar. The base itself is rather thick glass, the purpose there is to allow the bottle to “light up” much better in an illuminated bar shelf and make the bottle really stand out.
On the front, there are three textures with the labeling. The Iron Wolf logo is embossed into a metal plate that is affixed on the front with some inking to make it stand out even further. On the bottle itself is the “Bold Spirits & Texas Attitude” statement in the glass of the bottle itself. At the bottom is a small strip of paper label with the specifics of the contents on it.
First, the fact that all of these elements take up only a portion of the bottle’s real estate, and still let the color of the spirit come through, is great. But the real reason they exist is to try to entice customers to physically touch the bottle by offering as many different textures as possible. According to Lone Wolf, a customer is 70% more likely to purchase a bottle they touch, so getting them to touch the bottle is a little more than half the battle.
The base may be all about the consumer, but the neck is for professionals. The long skinny shape makes it ideal for grabbing and pouring, and the bulge in the middle is designed specifically so that bartenders can comfortably control the bottle one-handed.
It’s a great design that combines practical elements with some salesman tradecraft and yet still looks great on a liquor shelf at home.
Take one whiff and you’ll instantly know that this is a proper bourbon. There’s a sweet sticky toffee caramel smell to the liquor with a hint of vanilla underneath, almost exactly like a grilled sticky back in State College, PA. For those who weren’t blessed (or cursed, depending on how attached to your waistline you are) with that delicacy, it’s a local variety of a cinnamon bun.
You can definitely tell that this is a “high rye” bourbon from the very first sip. The initial flavors are those traditional notes of an American bourbon, specifically that sweet caramel flavor. But almost immediately, the peppery spice of the rye content makes its entrance and provides a kick that’s enjoyable.
Even though there’s a kick, it doesn’t overpower the spirit and it’s smooth throughout from beginning to end. Delicious.
Adding some ice doesn’t really change the base flavor. There’s still a toffee caramel that is present with a hint of vanilla behind it. The difference here is that the peppery kick on the finish is much delayed. It’s still present, but it sure takes its sweet time getting there.
This is one of the rare spirits where you’re not really losing anything by adding the ice. Usually the more delicate flavors disappear and are lost forever, but in this case you actually get to enjoy those delicate flavors longer since the spice is delayed.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
Yeah, that’s pretty good there.
Much like with the added ice, all of the flavors are still present. The caramel, the spice, all of it. So when you mix in a bit of orange bitters what you get is a well rounded cocktail that is deliciously sippable.
Heck, it doesn’t even need the sugar. The caramel of the bourbon is sweet enough on its own.
This version needed extensive testing. I needed to get some in-depth insight into the flavors. Over multiple days. Until the bottle was empty.
It’s absolutely delicious. The flavors mix amazingly well, the sweetness of the caramel, the peppery spice of the rye content, all of it. I’m a huge fan.
No matter how you try it, this is a delicious spirit. It’s able to handle everything you throw at it and remain delicious on the other side. The fact that it’s a product actually manufactured at the bottler’s facility in Texas makes it all the more special and something to be celebrated.
Iron Wolf Select Bourbon Whiskey
Owner: Iron Wolf
Production: Spicewood, Texas
Grain bill: ??
Aging: 3.5 Years
Proof: XX% ABV
Price: $33.99/ 750ml
Overall Rating: 4/5
This is one of the better Texas bourbons I’ve had. Sweet, spicy, and delicious.