While sipping whiskey and smoking ribs in 2011, musician Tommy Brunett had a flash of inspiration.

“I came up with an idea combining those two great American pastimes: great bourbon and whiskey making with an added subtle hint of applewood barbecue’s smoked goodness.” From that idea came Iron Smoke Distillery, which Brunett, co-founder Steve Brown and entrepreneur Tom Riggio have molded into a highly successful and award-winning brand.

Iron Smoke Bourbon Varieties

Iron Smoke Bourbon Varieties

After many trial batches, Tommy and his partners took their winning recipe to distiller Drew Wescott and produced a few batches of Iron Smoke Applewood Smoked Bourbon Whiskey, which quickly sold out. After opening their doors in 2013, Brunett and Riggio have expanded the distillery multiple times and are operating a 20,000-square-foot facility (with Wescott as master distiller), earning high grades for their whiskeys and winning an abundance of medals including Double Gold at the North American Bourbon & Whiskey Competition and a 95.5 rating from Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible.

Tommy Brunett and Tom Riggio

Tommy Brunett and Tom Riggio

Part of what makes Iron Smoke’s bourbon whiskey so good is that Brunett and Riggio refuse to cut corners.

“We believe to call yourself a craft distiller, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard. Slapping a label on someone else’s product is not handcrafted,” explained Riggio.

Iron Smoke Distillery is a certified small-batch, New York State farm distillery located along the historic Erie Canal in Fairport. Everything is accomplished on-site, including crushing grains obtained from the nearby farms, aging whiskey in triple-charred-virgin American white oak barrels, and refusing to use liquid from other sources. Moreover, to achieve the subtle applewood-smoked taste, Iron Smoke relies on a giant smoker that Wescott and one of the farmers built.

Tommy Brunett Live on Stage

Tommy Brunett Live on Stage

Iron Smoke’s success has created a push to release new products and labels: “In 2014, we introduced our line of premium-flavored whiskeys with the release of Rattlesnake Rosie’s Apple Pie Whiskey, which uses our very own unaged corn whiskey and fresh New York apple cider,” says Brunett. “It tastes just like Grandma’s apple pie and is truly unique, delicious, and artisan-crafted, so it certainly is not  moonshine, but more of a small-batch, premium product.” Iron Smoke’s current line-up includes Straight Bourbon Whiskey, CASKet Strength Straight Bourbon, and Single Barrel Reserve. Under the Rattlesnake Rosie’s brand, they produce Apple Pie Whiskey and Maple Bacon Whiskey.

The pureness of Iron Smoke’s ingredients and variety of flavors make the whiskeys perfect for enjoying neat, in a classic cocktail such as an Old Fashioned, or something more imaginative. “Try a little Rattlesnake Rosie’s Maple Bacon in your Bloody Mary or some Apple Pie in your Margarita—we call it the Rosarita, my go-to is the Peacemaker which is two parts Iron Smoke Bourbon to one part Rosie’s Apple Pie and some bitters over ice,” Brunett suggests. “It’ll change your life!”

But no matter how much the brand grows, Brunett and Riggio remain grounded. “Keeping the integrity of who we are and why we started this; being honest personally and professionally; creating jobs; supporting our community; staying on the path of controlled, sustainable growth, and keeping cereal in the bowls for our kids means everything to us,” says Brunett. “It takes a village to make a bottle of whiskey, and we have a tribe of the baddest-ass, whiskey-soaked scoundrels in the land.”


Peace Maker cocktail

Peace Maker

Peace Maker

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Iron Smoke Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1 oz. Rattlesnake Rosie’s Apple Pie Whiskey
  • dash Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters
  • dash Orange Bitters
  • Orange Twist (for Garnish)

Preparation: Pour into rocks glass over large ice cube. Garnish with large orange twist.