Salted caramel is one of my favorite flavors, and, in general, caramel is a great flavor when it comes to whiskey. So naturally, when I saw a bottle of cheap whiskey that specifically called out that flavor, I was hooked and knew that I needed to take it home a bottle of Ole Smoky Salted Caramel Whiskey and try it myself.
Opened on July 4th, 2010, the Ole Smoky Distillery took advantage of a recent change in Tennessee law to allow for new distilleries to be licensed once again. When it opened, it was only one of four distilleries in the state, of which two had been granted their licenses prior to prohibition (Jack Daniels and George Dickel).
Originally, the company focused on corn based whiskey, producing an un-aged moonshine style liquor that is bottled in Mason jars and occasionally flavored with fruit (much like how traditional moonshiners would ship their liquor). After seeing significant success, the company expanded into a line of whiskey in 2016, purchasing the Davy Crockett Distillery and renovating their facility. Eventually, they started shipping those same whiskey flavors nationwide in 2017. The whiskey was picked up immediately by Buffalo Wild Wings and Twin Peaks, stocked and served on their bars.
The only information we have on the contents of this bottle is that it’s a “Whiskey with Natural Flavors and Caramel Color added”… which isn’t a whole lot of disclosure. However, some of the history might be useful.
The original moonshine produced by Ole Smoky was a corn based grain bill, but that’s not necessarily how they’re doing it now. This whiskey only came on the market after the acquisition of the Davy Crockett distillery, so it’s likely that the grain bill that forms the base of this whiskey might be different from the norm. That said there’s little to no documentation on what grains Davy Crockett is made from, so we can’t really be sure.
Anyway, at some point the fermented mash of unknown contents is eventually distilled into whiskey. There’s no age statement on the bottle and no indication that there was any aging whatsoever, so it’s likely that the raw whiskey would have been sent straight into the bottle after being combined with the coloring and flavor additives.
The bottle is overall shaped like a big hip flask. The skinny-but-wide bottle has a rounded shoulder that rolls into a short neck, and the whole thing is capped off with a twist off metal cap with a shrink wrapper over the top.
One thing I will note is that the twist off cap seems to be perforated, implying that it should crack off the bottom part of the metal and let the top part of the cap spin free. Mine didn’t do that, it stayed whole and made every attempt to unscrew the cap annoying and discouraging. Which should have been a sign… one that I unfortunately ignored.
The label follows the same art style that their moonshine line follows, a good retro styled logo that looks like someone taped it onto the bottle. It’s a design that not only looks good at a distance, but it also shows off the color of the whiskey within. Which I appreciate.
I like a good bold flavored drink, but this might take it too far.
From the very second you start to pour the whiskey, even while your face is a good four feet away from the glass, the sickly sweet aroma of salted caramel makes itself known. It almost makes the whole room smell like a salted caramel ice cream cone, and that aroma only gets stronger as you bring the glass to your lips.
The weight of the liquid is remarkably heavy, but that’s more likely the result of some added sugar syrup than it is from the actual alcohol content. Especially since this thing is only 60 proof, which is 30% ABV. Way low compared to the more typical 40% to 45% ABV we usually see for whiskey.
That sugar content directly impacts the flavor of the spirit. What you get first is a solid heavy punch of brown sugar with almost diabetes-inducing levels of sweetness, and that caramel flavor follows somewhat quickly with a touch of added vanilla. There might be some saltiness included as well, but its momentary and all too quickly there’s a bitter kick that comes in and provides a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste.
Speaking of the aftertaste, the sickeningly sweet caramel (with the slightly bitter twinge) lingers long after the initial sip. In fact, it lingers so long that it pretty much ruins your palate for the remainder of the night. So just be aware — if you start drinking this, don’t go reaching for the Blanton’s next to get the taste out of your mouth.
There’s some marginal improvement here.
Normally, with a bit of ice you get some of the bolder flavors to tone themselves down and let the drink breathe a bit. In this case, though, it’s like drinking from a soda machine that ran out of syrup. You get a hint of the flavor that once was there, a slight dilution of the sugar content, and that last bitterness and bite on the end is gone.
The problem is that now this just seems strange. The weight of the spirit seemed to add something to the experience, but now it’s just a sickeningly sweet caramel water. It’s not really a pleasant drinking experience, and there’s definitely not any complexity to the drink.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
At first, this seems like a good idea. The bitters and the orange zest add a bit of complexity and depth to the cocktail that seemed to be missing, giving it something else to bring to the table. And with the latent sugar content there isn’t even any need to add the sugar cubes to the glass.
But then that aftertaste…
It’s like the bitterness that we saw initially has come back with a vengeance. It’s not the worst I’ve ever seen, but it’s nowhere near enjoyable.
I mean, on a technical level this meets the bar. But it just isn’t very good.
Normally, what we’re looking for here is for the whiskey to make itself known despite the strong flavors in the mixers, and that’s what we get. The salted caramel is strong enough that I’m actually looking for the opposite — I’m trying to see the ginger beer behind all that caramel. It also checks the second box, in that there’s something extra on the finish. But in this case, instead of the peppery spice that I usually like, it’s just more caramel.
In my opinion, the caramel flavor and the sugar content is just overpowering, which makes the cocktail less than pleasant.
This is pretty much sugary caramel syrup with a bit of alcohol added to it. If that’s what you’re looking for, then congratulations! This is your man. But otherwise, if you are looking for a complex spirit (or even one that’s particularly enjoyable in a variety of circumstances) you’re going to want to look elsewhere.
|Ole Smoky Tennessee Salty Caramel Whiskey|
Produced By: Ole SmokyProduction Location: Tennessee, United States
Classification: Flavored Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 30% ABV
Price: $17.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 0/5
This is to whiskey what wine coolers are to wine.