Arby’s Smoked Bourbon needs to be taken seriously by bourbon drinkers

Arby's Smoked Bourbon, photo provided by Inspired Brands
Arby's Smoked Bourbon, photo provided by Inspired Brands /

The liquor market is full of specialty bottles. From celebrity endorsements to unique casks to special aging processes, each bottle is looking for a way to stand out on the shelf. Although Arby’s might have many people craving those meats, it might not be the traditional menu item that has people thinking of a glass of bourbon. But, after opening a bottle of Arby’s Smoked Bourbon, it is one that people need to sip and sip again.

Some popular brands have looked beyond its niche to do some special offerings. Who doesn’t remember the Arby’s fry-inspired vodkas? Whether or not everyone could taste the flavor nuance when enjoyed in that Bloody Mary wasn’t necessarily the point. Seeing the quick service restaurant and its food in a different light engaged guests. Why can’t those signature curly fries be served with a cocktail?

For the latest release, Arby’s partnered with Brain Brew on a specialty smoked bourbon. For those unfamiliar, Brain Brew custom whiskey distillery. Always looking to innovate, the Cincinnati based distiller has won Double Gold Medals at the North American Bourbon & Whiskey competition. The company is willing to push the envelope and the results have impressed the industry.

Recently, FoodSided spoke with Doug Hall, CEO of Brain Brew about this collaboration with Arby’s. While the popular quick service restaurant wanted to highlight smoky flavors, Hall insisted that the partnership be rooted in craft. This concept wasn’t about just slapping a label on a bottle.

While the smoked bourbon took inspiration from both the 13-hour Smoked Brisket sandwich and limited edition Real Country-Style Rib sandwich, the process to impart those flavors was a journey. Given Brain Brew’s success in the liquor world, he wanted to make sure this blend was done right.

At the heart of this idea was to create something unique, memorable and most importantly great tasting. The blend started by using a rye. That component leant itself to playing well with the smoke. The combination of spice and smoke can be enticing.

While Brain Brew had done smoked whiskeys before, this Arby’s Smoked Bourbon is different. After picking the brains of the Arby’s culinary team, Cole learned to appreciate that different woods would impart various flavors.

In this case, the bourbon uses pecan wood in the mix, which is what Arby’s uses in its brisket. Cole mentioned, that the Arby’s way works in their sandwiches then why mess with it. The resulting flavor proves that the decision was a correct one.

When Cole was describing the taste, he said that it is unlike other bourbons. The pecan wood adds a roundness, balance, and overall smoothness. After one sip, people will discover that this bottle is not just a promotional bourbon with a label on it.

Although it is obvious that this bourbon is meant to be paired with that Arby’s Brisket Sandwich or the Rib Sandwich, the method of drinking of the bourbon is personal preference. Cole suggested serving it with one ice cube, which is his preference.

Personally, this bourbon is perfect in a cocktail. A riff on a Manhattan with some pecan bitters is quite delightful. The play on the nutty tones works well.

Also, since this bourbon is smooth, it is equally enjoyable with some bright citrus notes. An Old Fashioned with a simple orange peel could help add that acidic note to counter that hearty Arby’s meat sandwich.

No matter how the Arby’s Smoked Bourbon is enjoyed, it will be hard to find. A limited release can be found online. A bottle retails for $60 and a limited edition cocktail smoker is an addition $50. A secondary offering may be available in the future.

While Arby’s will always have the meats, but now there is bourbon to pair with them.

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