We Tried Arby's New Smoked Bourbon — Here's How It Went

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Arby's? A sandwich stacked so high with roast beef that it's questionable how you'll bite into it without some snakelike unhinging of the jaws? Or the unmistakably rich voice of actor Ving Rhames calling out "We have the meats!" maybe? Do your thoughts turn first to Horsey Sauce? Whatever you first think of when you think of Arby's, we're guessing it's not whiskey. That's true both because it's kind of mind-boggling to think about a fast-food chain famed for roast beef sandwiches releasing a whiskey and because once you have tried a sip of Arby's new bourbon, it's kind of hard to forget it. Especially when you have added even more smoke to Arby's Smoked Bourbon by burning wood chips in a little ceramic Arby's hat. 

Yeah, this is a lot to unpack at once, we know, so we'll take this whole thing step by step, covering the price of the new Arby's Smoked Bourbon, where you can get it, how to enjoy it, and of course how it tastes. But first, just for the record, as wild as it might sound for Arby's to release a bourbon, it's entirely precedented for the chain: Last year, it released not one but two different flavored vodkas. The flavors? Curly Fry and Crinkle Fry. And they sold out in about two minutes.

What's in the new Arby's Smoked Bourbon?

There's no roast beef or horsey sauce in here, don't worry. What you'll find instead is bourbon, that classic American spirit, that has been flavored (and scented — the aroma of a whiskey is a huge part of the entire experience) with smoke. And we'll talk smoke, but first, let's talk about the spirit itself. To classify as bourbon, contrary to common misconception, a whiskey need not come from Kentucky, though Champagne must come from Champagne, France, and Scotch must come from Scotland. No, to be rated as a proper bourbon, a whiskey need only be made with the proper grain bill, and that's one that uses at least 51% corn for its grains. Many feature more than that, even 65% to 75% corn, but 51% is the cutoff. In addition to the corn, there's usually barley, wheat, and sometimes rye finishing the grains off. Another rule is that bourbon must be aged in new oak barrels (via Southern Living).

This bourbon's grain bill is 5% barley, 21% rye, and the rest (74%) is corn, according to Doug Hall, a man we'll talk more about in a moment. Additional flavor has been added via smoke, namely smoke produced by mesquite, hickory, and pecan woods. And yes, those are the exact same woods used to slowly smoke many of Arby's famed meats, like the Smokehouse Brisket that is smoked for 13 hours before it is sliced and served.

How much does Arby's new Smoked Bourbon cost?

A 750-milliliter bottle of Arby's Smoked Bourbon sells for $60 (plus applicable tax) and can be purchased from its own website. Note that the price includes shipping, which means that in practice, this is a whiskey that would sell for abut $45. For reference, a 750-milliliter bottle of a lower-priced bourbon like Jim Beam (not knocking Beam, it just happens to be low-cost) sells for about $20 at most places, while a more elevated brand like Woodford Reserve sells for almost the exact same $45 price point as the Arby's Smoked Bourbon.  

So this is neither a cheap whiskey nor is it a very expensive one — what's more, as you'll see, it's not a case where you're paying extra for the gimmick of it all. Doug Hall, who we mentioned earlier, is the co-founder of Brain Brew Custom Whiskey, a craft distillery that, per its site, makes whiskey for other companies. The customer (in this case Arby's) tells Hall, his business partner Joe Girgash, and the Brain Brew team what they want in a whiskey (in this case lots of smoke flavor), and these guys produce it. Hall told Mashed this whiskey scored a 94 rating, so what you're getting is not a gimmick, but a great spirit (Oh, and for $50, you can buy a little ceramic Arby's hat wood smoker that sits over your glass and, when fed with burning wood chips, adds even more flavor).

How long will Arby's Smoked Bourbon be available?

Arby's new Smoked Bourbon will not be available for very long at all — not if the past is any precedent, anyway. Remember how we said that Arby's Crinkle Fry and Curly Fry vodkas sold out online in mere minutes? It's almost certain that will be the case again here. If you're reading this article at all, it must be after 10 a.m. on October 17, 2022, because that's the first time we were allowed to share news of this whiskey publicly — if you're reading it after 12:03 PM on October 19, 2022, you're probably too late, frankly. We're willing to bet this whiskey will sell out that fast, and considering that only 900 of the 750-milliliter bottles were produced, per Doug Hall, it might go even faster. The smaller 200-milliliter bottle you see in our pictures is not available for sale — only a few were made for reviewing purposes.

Even if you're reading this review in that 50-hour sweet spot between the morning of 10/17/22 and noon on 10/19/22, don't get your hopes up too much, as we've been told Arby's Smoked Bourbon will only be shipping to a few states: California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New York, and Washington, DC. But in a bit of a consolation prize, know that team from Brain Brew was so happy with the bourbon they produced that plans for a very similar spirit are already in the works.

How does Arby's Smoked Bourbon compare to other Arby's offerings?

It's kind of hard to compare Arby's Smoked Bourbon to other products the company offers as there have only ever been two other similar options, namely those two vodkas. And at the risk of offending Arby's Vodka lovers, those were very much gimmicks. A spirit infused with french fry flavors does not a fine libation make, not when sipped neat, on the rocks, or mixed into potentially the foulest vodka martini or Moscow mule you've ever had. This whiskey? Again, not a gimmick — we'll review the flavor soon enough, but know that for sure if we hadn't been crystal clear by now.

Granted, Arby's bourbon does continue a long line of offbeat promotional enterprises for the fast-food chain, which have included everything from a line of clothing designed in concert with rapper Pusha T that included a t-shirt, bandana, work jacket, hat, and bolo tie, to the infamous Smoked Sweats, which were a hoodie and sweatpants that were infused with the aroma of a real Texas meat smokehouse. Yes, that was a real thing, and the Smoked Sweats sold out, too. Also, don't forget Arby's line of holiday goods, like a Christmas Tree Meat Skirt. One thing you can compare this bourbon to is Arby's smoked meats themselves, which really do have tons of smoky flavor, as does this whiskey.

What are the stats for Arby's Smoked Bourbon?

As we've mentioned a few times in the past, alcohol is not required to be labeled with nutritional information like foodstuffs and other beverages are, as booze is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (or the TTB for short) according to Vox, wheres as non-alcoholic edible products fall under the domain of the FDA. Thus, we really don't know the exact nutrition information here, but we do know that at 45% alcohol by volume (which is 90 proof, for the record), this is a potent whiskey — most spirits weigh in at 40% alcohol, for reference. All that said, we can compare Arby's Smoked Bourbon to bourbon in general and come up with an approximation of its nutrition information.

According to Livestrong, an average serving of bourbon, which is 1.5 ounces (AKA a shot, and that's 44 milliliters, in case you're of a metric mindset), contains 97 calories. Now, that's for a 40% ABV/80-proof whiskey, so this will be a bit higher here. A 100-proof shot clocks in at 124 calories, for example, so we can do the math and get around 110 calories per shot of this bourbon. Which is quite a few calories, really — you could drink an entire 12-ounce can of Coke and only consume 30 more calories than this shot nets you, per Calorie King. No worries on the carbohydrate front, though: Like all non-flavored bourbons, Arby's Smoked Bourbon should be free of carbs.

Verdict: Did we like Arby's new Smoked Bourbon?

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.