Smoking Whiskey and cocktails has grown in popularity both in bars and at home. It is easy to obtain the necessary materials to try to replicate cocktails people have spent gobs of money on at trendy bar or simply experiment with whiskey neat. There are a lot of options out there ranging in price and size. You can buy smoking sticks that you light and hold in an upside-down glass to give a hint of smoke to your drink, a gun with a hose on it that can be put in any container you already have, portable smokers, and larger professional smokers. All of these options come in varying price ranges. There are many options for smoking flavors as well.
For this experiment we used Crafthouse by Fortessa The Smoking Box. We set up the smoker outside; we learned from a previous attempt that there simply is not enough ventilation in the house, and the smell will last for days. This particular smoker is a really quick set up. The chamber has a wood base that just sets inside and the smoking gun attaches with a small rubber hose.
We decided to smoke 3 tiers of whiskey; a very affordable whiskey, a good whiskey, and a very good whiskey. We used a variety of up to four smoke flavors including Oak, Bourbon Soaked Oak, Maple, and Applewood.
We started with Early Times, which is a very affordable Kentucky Whiskey. We tasted it neat first for comparison. In my opinion, Early Times is overly sweet having notes of butterscotch, honey, and toffee. I don’t get any of the wood or spice notes I enjoy in whiskey. We started with Oak wood chips, followed by Bourbon Soaked Oak, then Maple. We noted that the Oak did not really change the flavor much. It added a soft hint of oak, but not enough to mellow the sweeter notes. The Bourbon Soaked Oak increased it by a very small amount not giving enough balance to the flavor. The Maple made it all the sweeter.
We then tried smoking an OldForester Single Barrel. This is a perfectly fine bourbon neat with some vanilla, raisin and toasted oak flavors. We tried this one with the Bourbon Soaked Oak first and found it increased the flavor subtly, but nicely. We tried Maple next. I personally found it to be too sweet with the Maple smoke. Next up was the Oak, which didn’t really change the flavor at all. We finished up with Applewood. This was, by far, our favorite wood choice adding a really nice fruit and cedar flavor.
Lastly, we decided to smoke one of our favorite every day whiskeys, Gentleman Jack, but only using our favorite and least favorite wood chips. This is a really smooth whiskey with a nice balance of oak and caramel. We smoked it with Applewood first and there was a notable change in flavor adding a note of tobacco. We tried Maple next, and while I did not love it, I enjoyed it much more in this whiskey than the previous two. Lastly, we decided to try putting the whiskey through three full sessions of smoking with Applewood to see how much we could impart the smoke flavor or if it could be smoked too much. We were very pleased with the result finding that a triple-smoke gave the already delightful whiskey a really powerful smoke fragrance and gave it a bold, toasted oak and tobacco flavor.
Overall, we found that you can’t take a mediocre whiskey and make it fantastic with smoke, but you can definitely take an already very good whiskey and make it outstanding. We also learned: 1) If you don’t have the gun turned on when you light it, it is going to take forever to fully light and start smoking. 2) We will use tongs or a small spoon to scoop the wood chips into the gun next time because we had orange fingers for a few days. 3) Smoking whiskey is a fun way to spend some times with friends experimenting with whiskey.