Here's my latest installment in a series that I think I'll call, "Is this company punking us?"
Arby's—yes, the sandwich company, home of the famous "Horsey Sauce"—is now making "smoked bourbon." Upon hearing this news, I went straight to the Arby's website to see for myself. And yes, they are currently featuring their new smoked bourbon, which they describe like this:
An aged bourbon whiskey smoked with hickory, mesquite, and pecan woods. These are the same woods used to smoke the meats on Arby's Smokehouse Sandwiches, so you know this bourbon pairs well with everything at Arby's. Except the drive-thru. Don't pair it with that.
The Arby's smoked bourbon page also features various sandwiches that "inspired" the smoked bourbon. Here's how they describe the primary inspiration, The Real Country Style Rib Sandwich:
Behind every great bourbon is a tender meat sandwich used as inspiration for the smoking process. And Arby's has the best inspiration there is: The Real Country Style Rib Sandwich. Topped with cheddar cheese, smoky BBQ sauce, and crispy onions.
After looking at the Arby's website, where the bourbon seems to already be "SOLD OUT," I wondered if, indeed, the bourbon even exists. Maybe the whole thing is a ploy to get us to buy more Arby's sandwiches? I sought out more information, and the bourbon seems real. Nino Kilgore-Marchetti, writing for The Whiskey Wash, explains:
Arby's. is. getting. its. own. smoked. bourbon.
We could simply leave this story with those seven words and call it a day, but of course you want the other details if you've read past that sentence, so here you go: Arby's has teamed up with craft distillery Brain Brew to produce a limited edition bourbon that's been smoked with the same real woods used to smoke their meats.
I even found someone who had actually tried it. Steven John, reviews the spirit for mashed:
Yes, we very much enjoyed Arby's new Smoked Bourbon. In fact, we enjoyed this smoky take on America's classic spirit so much that it was a letdown to learn just how few 750-milliliter bottles are being produced — we'll be nursing our little bottle slowly, as it may be some time before Brain Brew gets around to making another take on this. What defines this bourbon at first scent is sweetness and smoke; the aroma gives off notes of honey, vanilla, and caramel, with that smokiness reminiscent of the smell of a distant fire. It's not in-your-face, in other words, but the smoke aroma is unmistakable.
Then when you take a sip, the smoke becomes a major player. This whiskey has a long, slow, complex finish when sipped neat, and it's one that evolves dramatically as soon as the astringent alcohol "burn" passes. First, there is that sweetness you expect with a whiskey made with so much corn. Then come those honeylike flavors we mentioned before, with a toasted oak underpinning them. But through it all, you can taste the smoke. Notes of pecan wood are the defining aspect of the smoky taste. Long after you have swallowed the spirit and the burn and sweetness have passed, a touch of smoke lingers on the palate. And long after you've sipped the last of your bottle of Arby's Bourbon, the memory of it will linger in your mind.
Somehow I missed Arby's previous alcohol offerings—Arby's Crinkle Fry and Curly Fry vodkas, which sold out online in just a few minutes. Arby's Smoked Bourbon is also out of stock, but the company promises that it's "coming back later this week." They also encourage you to sign up for an Arby's account to get a head's up about when the bourbon will be available, if you're interested in trying some yourself.
So, "Is this company punking us?"
Verdict: Not punking us.