Review: James Ownby Reserve Tennessee Bourbon

Review: James Ownby Reserve Tennessee Bourbon

With James Ownby Reserve Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Gatlinburg, Tennessee-based Ole Smoky Distillery takes another step away from its moonshine roots, with a real Tennessee whiskey — or Tennessee bourbon, as they call it — now on the market.

The whiskey is sourced stock from unstated parts — though it has to be in Tennessee — and it goes through the Lincoln County Process, passing through sugar maple charcoal before aging. There’s no age statement and no mashbill info (as that would give away the producer). Anyway, we got a sample, so here are some thoughts.

Nothing challenging on the nose here. There’s barrel char, and lots of it, though it offers more of a toasted wood character than a heavy smoke or soot note. Hints of cinnamon and some maple obscure what elements of fruit are present, but those feel well-buried underneath everything else. The palate doesn’t surprise overly. It’s quite savory with toasted oak prominent, backed up with cloves but more of a fruit element in the mix. Gentle apple, touched with coconut and sesame oil, lingers into the finish, though it’s on the short side. All told, it’s completely harmless but agreeable, and probably best as a mixer.

For $38, you can do a lot better than this. But you can also do a whole lot worse.

94 proof.


James Ownby Reserve Tennessee 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 Comment

  1. Lee Morris on November 4, 2023 at 7:26 pm

    I was hoping for a little more, as you take your first sip; it’s smooth and earthy but the after taste is not fruity no vanilla no caramel. Just the poorly constructed barrel charred beyond belief! It’s worth the 40 dollar asking price

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