331 – How Smoke Wagon Became a Bourbon Jewel with Aaron Chepenik

Smoke Wagon felt as if it came on to the bourbon scene like it was fired out of a cannon. In the past 2 years, they have become one of the most highly sought after brands. However, the story of Smoke Wagon began over a decade ago. Aaron Chepenik started in the bar scene in LA that expanded into Vegas, but he got burnt out with the late nights and partying. That led him and his investor friend to start a vodka business which eventually opened the door to bourbon. Aaron had dreams of distilling his own whiskey, but quickly had to face reality when he realized that the equipment he purchased to distill whiskey couldn't scale after a visit to a little distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. When he was at MGP, he ended up buying as much aged product as he could and had the foresight to begin putting down new fill barrels as well. As fate (or government restrictions) would have it, he couldn't release his first bourbon for almost 4 years after.  He's built a cult-like following with his overly transparent personality on Instagram which makes him even more genuine to us bourbon enthusiasts.

Show Partners:

  • Catoctin Creek has been honoring that tradition of small craft rye whisky since 2009. Learn more at CatoctinCreekDistilling.com.
  • Smooth Ambler builds on the traditional roots of American whiskey in West Virginia. Visit SmoothAmbler.com to learn more.
  • Wilderness Trail is Sweet Mash Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Rye Whiskey distilled, aged, and bottled in Danville, Kentucky. Learn more at WildernessTrailDistillery.com.
  • You can now buy Barrell Craft Spirits products online and have them shipped right to your door. Visit BarrellBourbon.com and click Buy Now.
  • Spirits of French Lick is delivering the finest hand crafted Bottled in Bond bourbons. Check out SpiritsofFrenchLick.com.
  • Total Wine and More is wonderland for wine, spirits, and beer lovers! Explore more in store or online at TotalWine.com.
  • Heaven Hill Distillery has been lifting America’s spirit since 1935. Check out educational resources and sign up for their newsletter at HeavenHillDistillery.com.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about future bourbon history.
  • Where did you first hear about Smoke Wagon?
  • Tell us about your background.
  • When did you get your first taste of whiskey?
  • Why did you start a bar in LA?
  • Tell us about your vodka business.
  • How did you decide to get into the bourbon business?
  • How is Smoke Wagon different than other MGP brands?
  • Take us through the design of the bottle.
  • Tell us about the stolen barrel.
  • Where can someone get one of your hats?
  • @smokewagonbourbon @aaron_from_nvdistilling
  • Support this podcast on Patreon

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