Old Nick Williams in Lewisville, North Carolina bills itself, somewhat confusingly, as America’s most famous forgotten distillery. Like many craft distilleries in operation today, it is attempting to resurrect a family distilling tradition. In the case of Old Nick Williams, it’s a really long tradition, beginning before the Revolutionary War and ending, like so many, with the dawn of Prohibition. In 2014, after an old office safe and a bottle of original Williams family whiskey were found on family property, Van and John Williams, along with their sons, set to work rebuilding the family name. Unfortunately for them, the whiskey world already had its share of famous Williamses (and some less famous but no less litigious “Nicks”), so the distillery resorted to branding its new whiskey using just initials. ONW Carolina Bourbon Whiskey is the flagship, made from a 200-year-old family recipe and locally grown grains. The mashbill is technically a wheated bourbon, and it’s aged at least 18 months, which is a bit on the younger side, even for a craft distillery. Let’s check it out.
The nose shows its youth initially but evolves considerably in the glass. At first, it’s punchy with alcohol and a bit of cereal-forward sharpness, but with air, the grains sweeten, becoming Graham cracker and straw. Dry woodshop notes and butterscotch pudding arrive in time, eventually giving way to lemon peel and cinnamon. The palate is thin and sweet with an easy, even heat. Notes of caramel sauce and honeyed cereals kick things off on the sweeter end of the spectrum, which intensifies into the mid-palate as a bit of green apple and Nilla wafers provide some welcome complexity. There’s a salty edge to this one that I can’t quite place, almost like saltwater taffy. It’s a bit confusing but helps to temper some of the sweetness heading into the finish, which sees fading notes of light brown sugar and toasted oak. Still young but showing promise.
B+ / $35 / oldnickwhiskey.com