Review: Warbringer Mesquite Smoked Southwest Bourbon

Review: Warbringer Mesquite Smoked Southwest Bourbon

You’ll find Sespe Creek Distillery not in Arizona or New Mexico but in Oxnard, California, a somewhat unlikely locale for the most “southwestern” whiskey I’ve encountered in my life. (If Sespe Creek sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also the brand behind Dr. Zzyzx flavored vodkas we reviewed last year.)

Warbringer is a heavily smoked bourbon, using mesquite to smoke the corn that goes into the mash (alongside malted rye). The bourbon is aged (for an unstated length of time) through Sespe’s precisely controlled process, but the distillery stresses that this whiskey gets most of its flavor during distillation, making a lengthy aging process unnecessary. With that said, the whiskey is finished in former sherry barrels, again for an unstated length of time.

And wow, what a product this is. I’ve encountered mesquite-smoked American whiskies such as Colkegan American Single Malt, but that did nothing to prepare me for the experience of drinking Warbringer. The smokiness is simply unparalleled to the point where I was sure I could see it wafting out of the newly opened bottle. Overwhelming mesquite notes are clear — this is not “peaty” at all, it’s a completely different type of smoke character — with a slightly sweet and distinctly southwestern bent to it. The smoke drowns out everything else on the nose, but when you tuck into the whiskey proper, you find quite a bit more going on. On the palate, the smoke is less overwhelming that you’d think, with notes of peaches, sweet corn, and a mix of spices all emerging on the tongue. The whiskey is a bit sweaty at times, which vaguely reminded me of Islay’s iodine and brine notes, but the resemblance ends there.

On the finish, the smoke comes back for a knockout punch, lingering interminably on the palate and unfortunately getting a bit ashy at times. As much as I enjoy many smoky whiskeys, I simply found Warbringer too overwhelming for my tastes. While other drinkers’ mileage will surely vary, even if you’re a thrill-seeker, make sure you know what you’re getting into.

98 proof.

B- / $57 /

Warbringer Mesquite Smoked Southwest Bourbon




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Stephen Paul on December 27, 2019 at 10:32 am

    Dear Mr. Null,
    I think you may not be aware of our single-malt Whiskeys Del Bac. We malt our own barley for our mesquite-smoked Whiskey Del Bac Dorado, and have won multiple gold medals for our Dorado and for our unsmoked Classic, including three Double Gold Medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Would it be possible to send you samples for review?
    Stephen Paul

  2. Troy on April 25, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    I would enjoy sampling the Warbringer and the Warbringer Warfighter, posting a review on Instagram. You can email me at [email protected] for a mailing address, if interested.

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